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Florida Food Banks Brace for Impact of SNAP Changes

Food banks across Florida are anticipating increased demand in the coming weeks, as changes to federal SNAP benefits take effect. (Maryhere/morguefile)
Food banks across Florida are anticipating increased demand in the coming weeks, as changes to federal SNAP benefits take effect. (Maryhere/morguefile)
March 24, 2016

MIAMI, Fla. - Adding to the pressure of the job search, many unemployed Floridians risk losing an important safety net if they can't find a job, enroll in school, or enter a job-training program.

Florida is one of several states to reinstate time limits on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits.

With the change, which took effect at the beginning of the year, able-bodied adults with no dependents are limited to three months of food assistance during any 36-month period.

Paco Velez, president and CEO of Feeding South Florida, says without access to regular, healthy meals, a costly cycle ensues.

"It starts leading into health issues and mental capacity issues, and then, they'll end up giving you restrictions, and you end up with either low-paying jobs or not able to find a job," says Velez.

Florida was one of many states that suspended the rules at the height of the Great Recession.

But the SNAP time limits were reinstated at the beginning of the year, so the full effect will begin to hit in April.

However, Velez says the impact is already being felt at food banks across the state. He adds his organization is working with its network of food banks and pantries to help get the word out, and to encourage those who can to open their hearts and cupboards to help out.

"We've been sharing the information back and forth and looking at how we can increase the amount of food that we're bringing in, so that we can share with our partner agencies," Velez says.

Some lawmakers believe reinstating the requirement will move food stamp recipients toward self-sufficiency, but Velez argues that having less access to food won't help them find jobs faster and could lead to unintended costs, such as higher health-care expenses.

The average monthly SNAP benefit for a single adult without children is $146, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL