A Washington, D.C.-based liberal think tank is projecting that at least one million recipients are expected to be booted from the food stamp program by next year. Thanks to restrictions passed by Congress, households nationwide are beginning to feel the squeeze while legislation is passed restricting access to government assistance. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reported that a reduction in unemployment claims will disqualify states from receiving a current exemption for food stamps.
Enrollment has dropped since 2013 in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Food stamps, the common name for the SNAP program, will now place on childless adults a three-month time frame for food assistance. States will have to reinstate requirements for able-bodied adults to undergo vocational or job training or work a mandated 20 hours weekly to continue to receive reduced food assistance after the three-month period expires. In September 2014, government reports show that 46.5 million people were enrolled in SNAP, which was down from 47.3 million the year prior.
The time restriction of three months affected only adults who were not disabled and childless between the ages of 18 and 50. The limit is in effect for a three-year time frame where the applicant was not employed or enrolled in a training program. Up to 80 percent of the people affected by the loss in benefits have a household income that is below the poverty line according to the think tank. Food stamps were up to $200 of most monthly budgets.
According to Ed Bolen, CBPP spokesman, the new requirements would speed up the booting of one million recipients in the food stamp program. Much of the drawdown in enrollment is attributed to more people getting jobs and earning a few dollars more than eligibility requirements. Another contributing factor to the lower unemployment rates is the individuals that have expired their unemployment and can no longer claim additional benefits. Many of the unemployed have ceased reporting in their status. Bolen forecasted that even more benefits will be lost in 2016.
Most of the states currently hold time-limit waivers, which was first enacted in 1996 under the welfare reform act. Now that unemployment has dropped to the lowest reported levels at 5.8 percent, the states stand to lose the waiver that it was granted on the three-month time frame for benefit assistance. The waivers are currently still in effect in 40 of the 50 states.
Republicans fought to pull the waiver sooner but were unsuccessful. Rather than killing the waiver, a compromise was reached with new SNAP legislation approving modest restrictions on benefits. Oklahoma, Ohio, Kansas, and a handful of other states have jumped the gun and re-imposed the three-month time limit for benefits. The move has reportedly resulted in a steep decline in caseload for caseworkers.
Bolen wrote on the CBPP website that the loss of food stamps would lead to an increase in duress for the one million recipients slated to be booted from the program. Unemployed Americans that relied on food stamps to meet their needs will now have to seek out alternative sources of nutrition. Congress is not expected to act or make any changes to the current legislation so the burden now lies on the states to plan on the reduction.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Matt MacGillivray – Flickr License