The change is taking place progressively and “incredibly confusing,” Ed Bolen, an analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) social policy research institute, told Univision Los Angeles. Bolen is a co-author of a report on the impact of this measure.
With the arrival of 2016 and the end of the economic recession, a large part of the country has to re-apply in its entirety the 1996 law that establishes that individuals between 18 and 49 years old without dependents, and that they do not they are disabled what is known as ABAWD), they are only entitled to “food stamps” for 3 months in a 3-year period unless they comply with any of the specific job requirements:
- They must work at least 80 hours a month.
- Participate in job training programs for at least 80 hours per month.
- Follow a state-run unpaid work program.
To that criterion is added the main low-income, as stipulated by the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). See here to check your eligibility. For people with dependents or disabilities, those under 18 and those over 49, the situation does not change.
The situation by states
With the crisis that began in 2008 and due to the increase in unemployment, states were able to take advantage of exemptions so that their residents in need could benefit from the food stamp program on an ongoing basis and without having to comply with the conditions of work or training required by law.
As of April 1, 8 states in the country maintain the exemption for ABAWDs to use “food stamps” without a time limit: California, Washington DC, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, as well as the territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands, based on updated USDA information.
California, Washington DC and Rhode Island have managed to extend this situation until the end of 2017, a period of two years that is “a rarity”, according to Bolen, and that required state authorities to demonstrate to their federal counterpart that the conditions economic policies in their states were not conducive to re-restricting access to food stamps.
At the beginning of the year, it was expected that by April, 22 states would have renounced the exemption, however territories that had initially been in favor have requested extensions, such as West Virginia and Tennessee.
Currently, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have returned to pre-crisis restrictions. Some of them, such as Florida, Texas, Kansas and Wisconsin, made that decision for political rather than economic reasons, Bolen said.
“It is difficult to say that there is work for everyone,” said the analyst, who speculated that states want to pretend that their “economy is working well.”
In 28 states, the exemption exists only partially, for counties where unemployment is still high. That happens in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon , Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
“The concern is that states are leaving out more people than they should,” explained Bolen, who noted that several territories are realizing that “they are not ready to apply the exemption” because their economy is not recovering as expected pace.
According to this expert, another of the problems that states are encountering that are beginning to force the plaintiff of the stamps -in ABAWD cases- to have some type of work activity is that the supervision of this process is more expensive and difficult than the granting of food stamps more generally.
The “food stamps” program is funded by the Federal Administration, although the states share the costs of managing this service with USDA.
The CBPP report estimated that in 2016 the areas in which the three-month limitation for obtaining food stamps will cover an area in which 65% of the country’s population lives, compared to 30% in 2015.
“Unemployed, childless, and nondisabled adults on SNAP tend to be very poor. More than 40% of this vulnerable population is female and one-tenth is Hispanic,” the report says.