By Catherine Herbert
Of the roughly 45 million people on food stamps in America, hundreds of thousands could be cut off as states begin to reintroduce time limits and work requirements that were previously deferred due to the nation’s high unemployment rates in recent years, according to the New York Times.
Those most affected are expected to be childless adults with lower incomes and the cuts could start as early as this month. The New York Times reported that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities predicted that anywhere between 500,000 to 1 million people will lose benefits seen from the food stamp program, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as it is now called.
In order for adults ages 18 to 49 with no dependents or disabilities to maintain their eligibility to SNAP, they must meet time sensitive requirements that haven’t been used since the 2009 recession. The reinstated rule requires these particular people to get a job where they work at least 20 hours a week, within three months of enrolling in the food stamp program to continue to be a part of it. Otherwise, they will only be able to utilize the program for three months in any given three-year period. This mandate had been repealed as a response to the high unemployment rates seen in the years following the 2009 recession and has remained suspended until now, as the nation is seeing more jobs return, the Washington Post reported.
This mandate was reinstated in multiple states at the beginning of this year, with the three-month period for finding a job being disabled on Friday, April 1, according to the Washington Post.
Most states have not reintroduced the policy since the recession, with just 17 reinstating it in recent years, but as of this month, 22 more states, including New York, Florida and Maryland, are going to be seeing the repercussions of the mandate being reenacted. The Washington Post reported that even in states where unemployment rates still remain relatively high, a few governors have welcomed the reinstatement of the mandate, citing it as a means to motivate those eligible for SNAP to join the workforce.
On Friday, April 10, it was reported by the Labor Department that the nation’s unemployment rate is at 5 percent, which is about half of what the rate was after the 2009 recession. Dorothy Rosenbaum, who works at The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as a food expert, said, “Although the overall jobless rate has been slowly falling, other labor market data indicate that many people who want to work still cannot find jobs. Cutting off food assistance does not enable them to find employment or secure more hours of work,” according to the New York Times.
Critics of the decision to reinstate this controversial mandate are wary of how this will play out. Kevin Concannon, the under secretary in charge of food assistance programs, said that it is not a good idea for states to reimpose this law where adults who are seeking jobs cannot find them due to economic conditions, according to the New York Times.