SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In order to receive SNAP benefits, right now any South Dakotan without dependents who is able to work and is younger than 49-years-old must participate in work, training or education at least 20 hours a week in order to receive SNAP benefits.

In tonight’s your money matters, I look at why South Dakota’s Congressman is working to make sure all states follow that rule.

“South Dakota does things right, we follow the law of the land, already in federal law it says if you are going to be on food stamps, which is a critically important program, that you need to work or go to school 20 hours a week,” SD Representative Dusty Johnson said.

The federal requirement only applies to people of working age who are able-bodied and don’t have any kids.

“The rules don’t apply to you if you’re pregnant or if you have young kids at home or if you’re a senior but there are states that are ignoring those existing work requirements. They’re using loopholes to say that no one in their state is subject to those work requirements,” Johnson said.

It’s a loophole Johnson aims to close with the America Works Act, which would ensure that people in the 18 states currently offering waivers to that rule have more incentive to get back into the workforce.

“My bill would take 1.5 million more Americans on the sidelines, able-bodied young people without dependents, at home and get them back in the workforce,” Johnson said.

“We have so many employers that are literally crying for employees, they’re doing job fairs here at the St Francis House right now and the majority of our guests are working, sometimes they have a full-time job and a part-time job,” St. Francis House Executive Director Julie Becker said.

The St. Francis House has always run on the idea that employment is the best way to help people out of poverty.

“It is beneficial for people to be working and moving forward,” Becker said.

But with today’s workforce shortages, the opportunities are even greater than before.

“Many guests will arrive Thursday morning, sometimes by this afternoon or tomorrow morning they’ve already been offered one or two jobs,” Becker said.

KELOLAND News spoke with several guests here at the St. Francis House Thursday who said they’re not as concerned about SNAP benefits as they are about getting more help at their current jobs. They had three different employers and said all of them are short staffed on a regular basis, making their jobs much harder.

“I think we want to send the message on the sidelines, listen we need you, we want you, there is a better life waiting for you,” Johnson said. “My primary motivation is just helping needy families escape poverty, if we’re not helping them get job skills and go to work, they’re never going to get out of that issue, that problem.”

Along with closing the waiver loopholes used by some states, Johnson says his America Works Act of 2023 would also raise the age limits of an able-bodied adult without dependents from 49 to 65, to keep consistency with Medicare eligibility requirements.