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Proposal Would End Time Limits on Food Stamps

Some 58% of SNAP recipients have jobs, and 82% worked immediately prior to or after receiving benefits. (U.S. Army Reserve)
Some 58% of SNAP recipients have jobs, and 82% worked immediately prior to or after receiving benefits. (U.S. Army Reserve)
May 30, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. – New legislation making its way through Congress aims to keep food on the tables of people struggling to find steady employment.

Since 1996, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) strips childless adults between ages 18 and 49 of benefits after three months if they don't work or enroll in job training for at least 80 hours a month.

Elizabeth Lower-Basch, who directs the Income and Work Supports Team at the Center for Law and Social Policy, says current rules ignore challenges faced by low-wage workers.

She cites one common example: "If you work at a retail store, they may schedule you for 20 hours one week, but then only 8 hours the next week. So, if you don't hit that 20 hours a week, you could lose your nutrition benefits even though you're working."

SNAP helps make food affordable for nearly 40 million low-wage workers, children, seniors and people with disabilities, including more than 175,000 Nebraskans.

The Trump administration has argued that increasing work requirements will help people escape poverty. In February, the administration proposed a rule to limit a state's ability to waive time limits in areas of high unemployment, which could lead to an estimated 755,000 people losing benefits.

CLASP filed comments objecting to the rule.

Lower-Basch believes time limits and other requirements for SNAP are frequently based on false stereotypes that perpetuate the myth that recipients aren't working and don't want to work.

She points to research showing that access to SNAP actually increases the likelihood of employment and self-sufficiency.

Approximately 58% of SNAP recipients work, and 82% were employed immediately prior to or after receiving benefits.

"Not being able to eat doesn't make anyone more able to find a job," she observes. "But also, the reality is, most SNAP recipients either are working while they're getting SNAP, having low wages, or [they] worked in the recent past or will soon."

Known as the Improving Access to Nutrition Act, House Resolution 2809 was introduced his month by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and has been assigned to the House Agriculture Committee.

According to Lower-Basch, the measure would give more than 3 million Americans more time to find employment with predictable hours and better wages, instead of leaving them to find a job on an empty stomach.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE