Nearly 30,000 Pennsylvania residents could lose their food stamp benefits early next year with the state gearing up to reinstate work requirements that were waived in response to the recession.
The federal government has required work or job training to qualify for benefits since 1996. After the recession, many states were granted waivers that allowed them to ignore the requirements. The state’s Department of Human Services Spokeswoman Kait Gillis notes the state agency is working hard to minimize the negative impact the change might have.
“The federal government has several waivers and exemptions from this requirement for certain types of individuals and areas that have high unemployment and other employment-related issues,” Gillis told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The work requirements apply to able-bodied adults without children. As of June, 44 states have either a waiver or a partial waiver. The job must be at least 20 hours a week and the training must be federally approved. Some states like Louisiana have already let their waivers expire. Other states have also considered doing the same.
The food stamp program is officially known as The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Run by The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it is the nation’s largest food-assistance program.
Not everyone believes ending the waiver is a good idea. Rochelle Jackson, public policy advocate with the anti-hunger group Just Harvest, argues many people just have trouble finding a job.
“It’s not that these people don’t want to work,” Jackson told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Hopefully, with [the Department of Human Services], we can get them some real employment training opportunities.”
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The improved economy has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. The Congressional Budget Office found, since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million.
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