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Thousands Affected by April 1 Change in SNAP Benefits

Oregon Food Bank is offering assistance to people who are unsure if they are still qualified for SNAP benefits. (Courtesy of Oregon Food Bank)
Oregon Food Bank is offering assistance to people who are unsure if they are still qualified for SNAP benefits. (Courtesy of Oregon Food Bank)
March 14, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. – Supplemental food benefits could end on April 1 for as many as 12,000 people in two Oregon counties.

Unemployed, able-bodied individuals without dependents between 18 and 49 in Multnomah and Washington counties will no longer be covered by extended benefits.

A waiver had been in place after the recession because of high unemployment, but employment in those two counties has improved enough to make them no longer eligible for the waiver.

Belit Burke, manager of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is notifying people who are in danger of losing their benefit at the end of the month.

"We're trying in two different levels to help them meet the exemption criteria if they do, and help them also know about the employment and training opportunities that are available to them to help them get to work, if that's something that they are ready to do," she explains.

If individuals work for 80 hours a month, they can continue to receive SNAP benefits.

The Department of Human Services is offering job training and apprentice programs to help people meet the work requirement.

Jeff Kleen, a public policy advocate with the Oregon Food Bank, is hoping his organization can fill the gap for people who lose the benefit.

"We fully expect that they will be turning to the Oregon Food Bank network for assistance when on average they're going to lose about $190 a month in SNAP benefits,” he states. “That's far more than we can make up, but we'll certainly do our best."

Kleen says it's important to remember that the program reaches a lot of people in Oregon. About 1 in 5 receive food benefits.

Kleen is not happy with the cutback. He says this is Congress' third cut to the program in the last two years.

"It continues to stigmatize people living in poverty,” he states. “The economy is recovering, but for a large segment of the population, they're still struggling to make end's meet."


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR