Nearly 47,000 people in Indiana are at risk of losing their access to government food aid because a once-suspended requirement is being reinstated.
Before 2009, able-bodied adults without dependents were required to work or obtain an education to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The requisite was lifted when the recession forced thousands out of work. The upswing in the economy has encouraged lawmakers in several states to reinstate similar statutes, which comply with the federal work requirements implemented in 1996, WXIN reported.
People in Indiana who can’t prove they’re working or participating in an approved training program for 20 hours a week could lose their benefits in November.
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On average, individuals would lose about $125 each month, The Indianapolis Star reported. Though the requirement was officially instituted in July, those who were impacted had a three-month grace period to find a job or join a program.
Food pantries and other social service providers are concerned about the impact. “What we’re worried about from a nonprofit, charitable sector perspective is, what kind of impact will that have on the food pantries, the food banks, the community organizations that are helping people with other needs?” Lucinda Nord, vice-president of public policy for the Association of United Ways, told The Indianapolis Star.
Only about 23 percent of people who will lose their benefits have attended appointments to preserve benefits, according to Steve Morris, project director for ResCare Workforce Services. Many don’t understand that their SNAP benefits could be at risk.
“We’re worried about those who would fall through the cracks — those folks who, maybe they have a mental health concern or a substance abuse disorder, but they’ve never been labeled as disabled,” Nord said. “They may not be able to work, but they’re technically not on disability.”
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According to John Whitaker, the executive director of the Midwest Food Bank, 1 in 6 people in the state use a food bank or pantry. “That will certainly, probably go up,” he told WXIN.
“We distribute food in over 58 counties and currently we’re feeding 80,000-90,000 individuals each month so a small increase in that is certainly absorbed by what we need to do, but we could always use more help,” he said.
Republican state Sen. Jim Merritt of Indianapolis welcomed the change. “These are folks that should be out in the workforce that should be looking for work,” he said. “These are able-bodied people who don’t have dependents and we need to make sure that we encourage them to look for work, find education and monitor them.”