One Million Americans Could Be Dropped From Food Stamps Next Year

Decreasing unemployment rates could trigger an end to waivers that help provide long-term benefits for those in need.

(Photo: Flickr)

Jan 6, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

For the second time in three years, the past policy decisions of Democrats is threatening to limit nutrition assistance for a significant number of Americans. Last November, additional stimulus funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program lapsed ahead of what Congress had initially planned back when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in 2009. The result was a rare across-the-board drop in benefits, amounting to 21 lost meals per month for a family of four, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

A new report from the group published Monday warns that in 2016, 1 million Americans could lose their benefits after being on SNAP for just three months. The hard limits will be a stark change to the extended periods of time some Americans have remained on food stamps during the Great Recession and long, slow recovery. But the cutoff period, which only applies to those between ages 18 and 50 who are without work and aren’t raising kids, is nothing new. Rather, it’s a return to limits set in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. CBPP calls the 36-month cutoff “one of the harshest pieces” of the bill.

In recent years, state-level waivers were used to lift the limit while unemployment remained high; currently, such waivers cover about 30 percent of the population. But with the job market improving and the national unemployment rate down to 5.8 percent and continuing to drop regionally across the country, CBPP estimates those waivers will be lifted in a handful of states next in 2016.

“Jobs are the best solution to hunger and poverty, and we support efforts to strengthen and expand job training and placement programs for people on SNAP to help them move out of poverty,” Ross Fraser, a spokesperson for Feeding American, said to Al Jazeera America in regard to the report. “Unfortunately, many childless unemployed adults will lose their SNAP benefits due to a lack of jobs or training programs."

The return to the 1996 status quo will hit those who are dearly in need of assistance hardest: According to U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers, unemployed adults without children or any disability had an average gross annual income of just $2,200 for a single-person household in 2014, or 19 percent of the poverty line.

Such people might not have hungry babies to feed, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help feeding themselves.