Thousands of food stamp recipients in Oregon are reportedly at risk of losing their benefits early next year when limits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, take effect.
The limits are a return to old rules put in place in 1996 with the federal welfare reforms, the Portland Mercury reports.
They stipulate that people can remain on food stamps for only three months while they look for work. After that time, benefits recipients must prove that they are volunteering or working somewhere at least 20 hours a week, or participating in a work-training program. The limits are only applicable to able-bodied individuals between the ages of 18 and 49 who do not have a dependent child at home.
Oregon has one of the highest rates of SNAP participation among eligible people in the U.S., Oregon Public Broadcasting notes.
The limits and the work requirements have been waived for many years in most states due to the sluggish economy. But as the economy in two Oregon counties recover, the limits are kicking back in. In Multnomah and Washington Counties, the rules go back into effect January 2016. The rest of the state’s counties will still be under the waiver, according to the Mercury.
According to statistics from the state’s Department of Human Services, cited by OPB, nearly 30,000 SNAP recipients in those two counties are at risk of losing benefits in 2016 due to the limits.
That could be a hardship for those who have been unemployed for a long time, according to Matt Newell-Ching with Partners For A Hunger-Free Oregon.
Newell-Ching told OPB on Dec. 2:
“If you are long-term unemployed it is particularly difficult to find work. If you’re in the hiring pool and an employer is deciding between somebody who is currently in the workforce versus somebody who has not had a job for a while, it’s less likely that you’re going to get the job if you have been unemployed for a long time. So this policy is going to disproportionately hurt people who have been looking for work for a long time.”
Myrna Jensen, with the Oregon Food Bank, told the Mercury that many will likely have to turn to charity, but the effects of the rules won’t be felt for the first few months of 2016.
“We might not see any effects until mid-April or even mid-year when people start losing their benefits and we get more people needing meals at the food banks,” she added. “We expect to see an increase in the number of people after April, and if that increase stays consistent over the next few months we'll be better able to trace it to a loss in SNAP benefits.”