UPDATE: Governor Bill Haslam announced he is reinstating the federal work requirements for Tennessee's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits, in 70 counties.

Officials say the work requirement changes will affect more than 58,000 Tennesseans receiving SNAP benefits or food stamps. 

"Back in 2008, when state was in the middle of a recession, we applied for a waiver," says Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. 

Governor Bill Haslam tells Channel 3, the average unemployment rate in Tennessee is now the lowest in state history at 3.3 percent. 

"Now when we have record low unemployment, it's hard to justify asking for a waiver from what the law is," says Governor Haslam. 

Starting February 1, able-bodied adults between the ages of 18-49 without dependents will be required to work, volunteer in an approved program or participate in a qualified training program at least 20 hours a week.

Officials say people will only be eligible for SNAP benefits for three months in a 3-year period, unless they are participating in SNAP work requirements. 

"If you're on SNAP which most people know as food stamps that's really not providing you a very high quality of life your way better off to have a job so what we wanted to do is make certain we're doing everything we can to encourage that happen," says Gov. Haslam. "Some of that is making sure the programs have the right incentives. It's also things like what we're doing today, announcing a new plant with Nokian Tires. Those jobs at a good wage are way better than a government program will ever be." 

Grundy and Bledsoe counties are among the 16 counties exempt from SNAP work requirements next year. Officials say these counties are considered to be economically distressed, with latest unemployment rates ranging from 6.0-7.3 percent. 

To find out more information about SNAP benefits click here.


PREVIOUS STORY: Gov. Bill Haslam is reinstating food stamp work requirements for most Tennessee counties starting Feb. 1.

Haslam said Monday that Tennessee will re-establish federal work requirements in 70 counties for able-bodied adults without dependents who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

That requirement was waived in 2008 amid recession. It won't be reinstated for 16 economically distressed counties.

Currently, the work requirement is in place in nine counties, including seven in the Nashville area.

Haslam says it's now difficult to justify the waiver amid record-low unemployment rates and substantial job growth. The governor's office says other states have similarly restored work requirements.

The change affects 58,000 of about 1 million Tennesseans on food stamps.

The administration says Haslam also will propose legislative changes to reduce welfare fraud, waste and abuse.

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