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Oklahoma cracking down on food stamp recipients

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahomans would face stricter requirements for receiving food stamps under a measure approved by lawmakers this week and now awaiting Governor Mary Fallin's signature.

The bill, approved by large margins in both chambers of the Republican-controlled legislature and finalized on Wednesday, requires most able-bodied adults from age 18 to 50 who aren't raising children to either hold a job or be involved in job training, volunteer work or a literacy program if they want to receive food stamps.

Fallin, a Republican, has not yet reviewed the final version of the measure, but is expected to act on the bill by the end of the month, spokesman Alex Weintz said on Thursday. He did not indicate whether she would sign or veto the measure.

"We want to encourage a culture of responsibility here in Oklahoma," said Joe Griffin, spokesman for Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon. "We want people to break the cycle of poverty and move on to prosperity."

The work requirement for food stamps is part of a federal mandate dating to 1996. But after the 2008 recession led to a sharp rise in unemployment, Congress approved economic recovery legislation that allowed states to seek waivers from the work mandate.

Oklahoma sought and received the food stamp work exemption in 2009. However, the Oklahoma bill revives the requirements for state residents and also prevents the state from seeking future waivers, Griffin said.

(Reporting by Steve Olafson in Oklahoma City; Writing by Carey Gillam; Editing by David Bailey and Andrea Ricci)

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