More than 18,000 people in Indiana are without food stamps this month after the state reinstated work requirements for many of those who receive the benefit.
In all, about 803,000 people in the Hoosier state receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, according to The Journal Gazette. The estimated 18,300 people who have been removed from the benefits program constitute just over 2 percent of those on the program.
The work requirement is a return to previous laws. Other states are also making the change as the economy improves, though many are waiting until the new year to put the rule into effect.
North Carolina is among them. As the Citizen-Times reported in September, the work requirement was part of the federal welfare reform rules of 1996. These rules state that any able-bodied person without children at home must either enter a work-training program, volunteer with an approved organization, or find work for at least 20 hours a week.
In Indiana, as in many other states, those rules were suspended in 2009 because of the recession, the Indy Star reported in August.
The rules went back into effect in July in Indiana, and the state notified some 47,000 Hoosiers that they could be at risk of losing their benefits if they didn’t comply with the requirements within three months.
In mid-October, 18,333 people were notified that their benefits would be taken away in November, The Journal Gazette reports.
State Republicans welcomed the change.
“These are folks that should be out in the workforce that should be looking for work,” Republican state Sen. Jim Merritt told WXIN News in August.
“These are able-bodied people who don’t have dependents and we need to make sure that we encourage them to look for work, find education, and monitor them,” he added.
Now that the three-month compliance period has passed, food banks and charitable organizations across Indiana are preparing to step in and help.
Jaimie Ferren, with the United Way in Allen County where about 1,000 people were affected, oversees 211 services for the organization. She told The Journal Gazette that she is starting to get calls asking for help.
“They are not sure what to do,” she said.
Most people get sent to area food banks or soup kitchens to make sure nutritional needs are met. But the United Way also provides job referral services and legal services to help some appeal the state’s decision.