Almost 33,000 Arizona residents face the prospect of losing their food stamps April 1 due to a change in regulations for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that around a million people nationwide could be affected by the rule change in 2016, Al.com reported.
The new regulations mean that adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not caring for a child or do not have a disability must work a minimum of 20 hours per week in order to continue to get food stamps.
Two thirds of those impacted in Arizona live in Maricopa County, according to the Republic. The regulations changed for them on Jan. 1, but they can continue to receive food stamps for three months, making April 1 the cutoff date.
Students, pregnant women, adults enrolled in training programs, and those participating in alcohol or drug treatment programs are exempted from the new rules.
Food banks and other human services organizations have pointed out it may be difficult to inform everyone ahead of time about the change, because many food stamp recipients move homes regularly or are homeless.
Human services professionals held a press conference Jan. 15 where they warned that many of those affected would only find out when they go to the store in April and cannot use their food stamp cards.
“Our food banks are going to remain concerned about this, as we hit that three month point,” President of the Arizona Association of Food Banks, Angie Rogers, told the Republic.
The regulations will also affect more than 44,300 adults in Alabama who currently receive food stamps.
The previous rules allowed people who were not working to claim food stamps in the wake of the economic crisis and recession of 2008-9, when unemployment rose in many states. In Arizona, employment levels are rising again, meaning the policy will switch back to what it was before 2009.
In areas where joblessness remains high, such as in 13 counties in Alabama, the removal of food stamps for the unemployed will not take place as elsewhere.