Mississippi is the latest state to cut back on food stamps, requiring single, able-bodied adults to work at least 20 hours a week to keep benefits.
“They are subject to a disqualification penalty until they find employment of 20 hours a week, or get an approved work activity,” Dana Kidd of Mississippi's Department of Human Services told WAPT.
The changes in Mississippi are part of a national trend to reduce the number of people dependent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as the federal government reduces money available for program. Nationally, about 45 million Americans receive SNAP benefits, often through or Electronic Benefit Transfer cards.
In Mississippi, like other states, the first group to potentially lose benefits are single, able-bodied adults who don't have children and don't have disabilities that prevent them from working. People in that category were eligible to receive $194 per month as benefits were extended during the recent recession, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
With employment rates rising, the USDA warned states that its waivers were expiring for most areas, meaning benefits rules will roll back to their default status, based on the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. That act, pushed by the Republican-led Congress at the time and signed by then-President Bill Clinton, was designed to remove Americans from dependence on government assistance.
For the past nine years, when the U.S. suffered a deep recession, the USDA allowed states to waive the three-month limit for single, able-bodied adults receiving SNAP benefits. Now those waivers are expiring, except in areas that still have high unemployment and poverty rates. This means individual cities and some counties can be exempt.
Advocates for the poor oppose states and the feds allowing the benefits waivers to expire.
“I think this is more of the same in terms of targeting those who have nothing," Jeribu Hill of the Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights told WAPT. "The benefit is $190. What is that? That’s a small amount of money. That’s a small benefit. It doesn’t even really cover what people need in terms of being able to live a quality life."