CONCORD, N.H. — New work requirements created for New Hampshire’s Medicaid recipients would also apply to those receiving food stamps and welfare under a bill before a House committee.
Lawmakers last year enacted new provisions requiring able-bodied Medicaid participants to work between 20 to 30 hours per week, depending on how long they’d been covered. The state is seeking a federal waiver to allow that change, but in the meantime, Republican Rep. Neal Kurk, of Weare, is proposing implementing the same requirements in the other programs.
“It implements a very basic philosophy that is rampant in the Granite State, and that is: All people should be treated equally, and that when we wish to help our less fortunate neighbors, we should do so when they’re less fortunate, but not when they are not less fortunate,” he told the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds the food stamps program, won’t allow such changes, however, said Kerry Nelson of the state Department of Health and Human Services. As for those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits, current work requirements apply to those with children 12 months and older, but the Medicaid requirement doesn’t kick in until a child is 6. That could jeopardize federal funding because the state is required to meet a certain threshold in terms of the percentage of participants who work, Nelson said.
Critics argued that changing the requirements for TANF and food stamps is premature given that the Medicaid waiver is still pending.
“To try to align these work programs now with something that is only imagined at this point doesn’t seem to be the best way to move forward,” said Mary Lou Beaver, chairwoman of the Family Assistance Advisory Council.
Others pointed out possible ripple effects — for example, children whose families lose food stamps would no longer be automatically deemed eligible for free lunches at school.
Eileen Groll Liponis, director of the New Hampshire Food Bank, said her organization distributed 13.7 million pounds of food to soup kitchens, pantries and other programs last year. That was 8 percent more than the previous year even though unemployment is low.
“That tells me work alone is not the answer,” she said. “When you take away from (food stamps), you’re putting it on us.”