Indiana nonprofits officially began freaking out Tuesday over policy changes enacted in July that will mean 47,000 state residents booted from the food stamp dole.
But there’s a catch: That 47,000 represents potential workers without a disability or dependents, and they’ll only lose their benefits if they fail to complete an educational program.
“Over time, many people will get their food stamps back, if they find half-time employment or enter into a job training program,” Katy Bunder, the executive director of Food Finders Food Bank told The Indianapolis Star. “But I think we’re going to have a really rough year sorting through that.”
The state nonprofits are most concerned about the limited resources they have to respond to such an influx. Charities that provide food to the poor will suddenly have to worry about many thousands of more people flooding their services. Lucinda Nord, vice-president of public policy for the Indiana Association of United Ways, is very concerned of the impact the changes could have.
“What we’re worried about from a nonprofit, charitable sector perspective is, what kind of impact will that have on the food pantries, the food banks, the community organizations that are helping people with other needs?” Nord told The Indianapolis Star.
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), however, argues the changes are a response to the recovery. In fact, the very requirements the state is adding were already in place prior to the 2009 financial crisis. The federal government has required work or job training to qualify for benefits since 1996. In response to the recession, many states were granted waivers and didn’t have to enforce the requirements. As of June, 44 states have either a waiver or a partial waiver.
“The reason for this change is that the economy and employment in Indiana have improved enough that our state no longer qualifies for a waiver that exempts SNAP recipients from work requirements that were put in place by the federal government in 1996,” Marni Lemons, deputy director of communications for FSSA, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Like many states, Indiana suspended the requirement starting in 2009 with the economic downturn, and we’re now putting the requirements in place again,” Lemons continued. “More than 800 thousand people in Indiana currently receive SNAP. This new requirement applies only to the approximately 47,000 able-bodied adults without dependents.”
Meaning, the 47,000 residents that could lose their benefits amounts to just over five percent of SNAP recipients in the state. It is possible for states to receive another waiver if they ask the federal government by Sept. 1. If a state doesn’t ask for another waiver, the requirements will automatically kick in on Oct. 1. After that, recipients will have three months to fulfill the requirements.
“We have seen an 833 percent increase in the amount of able-bodied households on this program, so a large portion of that growth on food stamps in general has come from this population,” Josh Archambault, a senior fellow for the Foundation for Government Accountability, said during a recent press call. “But even as poverty rates have started to decline after some improvement, the number of people receiving food stamps continues to go up.”
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