Governor Jim Justice has signed a bill to impose the federal 20-hour weekly work requirement for many food stamp recipients statewide. The work requirement applies to people ages 18 to 49 without dependents.
Currently, 46 of West Virginia's 55 counties have waivers for the work requirement to receive food benefits. The other nine counties have been part of a pilot program that implemented the requirement with a goal of increasing workforce participation. However, a March 2017 memo from the state Department of Health & Human Resources stated that the pilot did not significantly impact employment figures.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program offers a maximum possible benefit of $192 a month or about $6.40 a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Advocates for the work requirement say the law will help eliminate fraud and get people back to work, even if it is only volunteering.
Opponents say it will push struggling poor people out of the food stamps program, cut federal funding and grocery spending and increase demand on food pantries.
"The bill doubles down on a failed policy at the expense of some of the most vulnerable West Virginians," said Seth DiStefano, director of public policy for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
On Oct. 1, waivers from the requirement could be sought only in counties with 12-month average unemployment rate above 10 percent. January data shows Calhoun as the only county with a monthly rate that high. All counties would become ineligible for the waiver on Oct. 1, 2022.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.