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KY Hunger-Fighting Groups: Strict Work Requirement Won't Fix SNAP

Kentucky SNAP recipients receive about $120 a month to buy food. (Peter Dutton/Flickr)
Kentucky SNAP recipients receive about $120 a month to buy food. (Peter Dutton/Flickr)
April 18, 2018

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Historic changes to one of the nation's foremost anti-hunger programs will be debated today in the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.

After its release just last week, the House of Representatives' version of the 2018 Farm Bill is expected to move swiftly through the House, which is troublesome to hunger-fighting groups including God's Pantry Food Bank in Lexington. The group's chief executive, Michael Halligan, said the program already works well and doesn't need a strict work mandate for those who might receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

"Give them a benefit for a short period of time; help them be nourished so they can operate at peak capacity so they can get back to work. That's what the Farm Bill does today," he said. "This new legislation that's being proposed takes away from the very core of what the program is designed to do in the first place."

Currently, SNAP recipients aged 18 to 49 without dependents are subject to work requirements. The legislation would expand the age to 59, and include parents with children ages 6 and older. Those who fall short of the 20-hour-per-week work requirement could lose benefits after one month. Supporters of the bill have said the changes will incentivize work and lift people out of poverty, while continuing support for those in need.

Halligan said the majority of SNAP recipients already are employed, but often in low-paying, part-time positions, with inflexible hours that make it difficult to meet work requirements. He said many others simply have fallen upon hard times.

"They may be at risk of hunger because they've lost a job," he said. "They may be at risk of hunger because they have unexpected medical expenses. They may be at risk of hunger because they're a recent college graduate, they have a mountain of debt and they don't have a job that pays enough to cover that debt."

Halligan said the proposed work requirement also could hurt children in families that are food insecure.

"The Farm Bill could be potentially taking food away from a child over the weekend, which is then going to hinder their learning ability on Monday and Tuesday, until the nutrition that they get through the school lunch program kicks back in," he said. "Why subject the children to that risk by making it more difficult to qualify for a short-term benefit?"

The nearly 650,000 Kentuckians who rely on SNAP assistance receive, on average, about $120 a month to help buy groceries.

Details of the legislation are online at agri-pulse.com.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY