At least 500,000 and as many as 1 million Americans are set to lose their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) in 2016, as many states shift to three-month limits on benefits.
The SNAP program provides those who meet eligibility requirements money to buy groceries, provided they are registered for work and participate in employment programs offered by the state. Other requirements to qualify for SNAP are that applicants must not have voluntarily quit jobs or reduced their hours, and if they are working, they must work for at least 20 hours a week, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
The maximum benefits allotted by SNAP are $194 per month for a single-person household, increasing up to $1,169 for an 8-person household with an additional $146 for each subsequent member of the household.
In 2016, the three-month time limit for SNAP benefits will be in force in more than 40 states, including 23 that haven't had the limit since the recession, CNBC reported. The limits, originally signed by then President Bill Clinton in 1996, affect SNAP recipients who are not employed or enrolled in a job training program after three months receiving benefits. The measure was intended to take a tough stance on unemployment, and send a message to low-income families to make efforts to find work.
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However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has released a report critiquing the limitations, finding that even in states where there are few or no employment programs offered, SNAP recipients have their benefits cut off after three months regardless of whether they are trying to find a job.
In some states, such as Louisiana, the cuts have already begun. On Jan. 1, 2016, 31,000 Louisiana residents lost their SNAP benefits, Al Jazeera reported. Joanika Davis, who received $194 monthly in food stamps, has said that she is still looking for work but will now struggle to make up nearly $200 monthly.
“Why should I have to fight for food right now?” asked Davis.
Steve Spires, a senior policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project, said that the situation for low-income job seekers is only getting worse.
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“The idea that anybody is choosing not to work because of $190 dollars a month in food stamps — that’s really kind of a stereotype," Spires said, according to Al Jazeera. "The reality is a lot of people want to work. There simply aren’t jobs."