Around 9,000 people in Kentucky lost their food stamps May 1 due to a change in federal policy involving benefits for adults who are considered able-bodied and do not have children.
Advocates who work with those receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, have said that many people didn't realize that they were about to lose benefits under the work requirements, according to the Courier-Journal.
The changes affect able-bodied adults without dependents who are between ages 18 and 49, requiring them to show that they are working at least 20 hours a week or participating in an employment training program.
The changes come as a conclusion to the temporary expansion of SNAP benefits to support low-income families in light of the 2008 recession. The government is terminating the expansion in certain counties where it has determined that the economy has improved, according to state officials. The changes affect eight counties in the state, while the other 112 will not be affected.
Those receiving benefits in the state were first informed of the changes in November 2015, when they were mailed notices and forms to begin the process of complying with the new guidelines.
Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, says that the changes could put low-income families through more hardship.
"We are aware of it and very concerned about it," Sandberg told the Courier-Journal. "Many families are still struggling to find work that pays enough to put food on the table."
The work requirements do not affect the benefits of those who have physical or mental disabilities, or who are pregnant or caring for a child or sick family member, according to the Lane Report.
"We already are really struggling to keep up with the demand for food assistance," said Sandberg, who pointed out that her organization's survey of the state showed that more than one-third of Kentucky families do not have enough food.
Kentucky has a poverty rate of 19 percent, and one in four children in the state currently live in poverty. The average amount in benefits received from SNAP is $120 per month, and about 680,600 people in the state receive benefits, according to state officials.