More than 7,000 unemployed Maryland residents have lost their access to food stamps recently because of laws relating to unemployment.
People who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are allotted a small amount of money each month to cover their basic food needs, but with new tightened guidelines, they must prove that they are spending a minimum of 20 hours a week working or participating in a job training program, according to WYPR.
The tightened unemployment rules, which began April 1, apply to able-bodied adults aged 18 to 49 who do not have children or other dependents. The rules were initially instated 20 years ago, in 1996, but because of high unemployment rates, states like Maryland received waivers that allowed for more lenient welfare rules.
Under the newly enacted guidelines, SNAP recipients who are unemployed and not enrolled in a job training program can receive benefits for a three-month period every three years.
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More than 44 million people in the U.S. receive SNAP benefits each month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A single person can receive a maximum of $194 per month from SNAP, but a household can receive more depending on the size of the family.
Maryland's waiver was lifted in certain areas because of economic improvement, but Ed Bolen, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the rise in employment hasn't affected everyone equally.
"For the very poor, folks who have barriers to work like a lack of education or training, it still is remarkably hard for them to find jobs," said Bolen.
John Moser Jr., a 46-year-old Maryland resident who lost his job as an auto mechanic in 2015, said that the work requirement is difficult for him to achieve because of the time he spends each week taking care of a sick family member.
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Moser lives with his sister and her boyfriend, who suffers from lung cancer. "So now I'm in a dilemma where I can't work because I'm constantly taking care of him, running him to doctors for therapy and for radiation and everything," said Moser. "I’m looking for something possibly at nighttime or something that’s 24 hours where I could work, maybe late at night, but [...] I need time to sleep, too."
“There is a lot of people who take advantage of it,” added Moser. “But for people who really need it, it’s going to affect them bad.”