If you don’t work or volunteer, food assistance program may be cut

By Gregory Cox

In May of 2015, more than 191,000 people in Palm Beach County were receiving support from SNAP — or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — that gives about $125 a month to recipients. Now, roughly 170,000 people in the county are getting support, an 11 percent decrease, according to Perry Borman with the Palm Beach County Food Bank.

State-wide, the number of people receiving benefits has fallen from over 3.7 million to roughly 3.3 million, about an 11 percent decrease.

Borman said the sudden drop off can be attributed to the implementation of a policy that cuts people off from benefits unless they work or volunteer.

The policy isn’t new — originally implemented in 1996 — but following the hardship of the 2008 economic downfall, most states qualified for a statewide waiver because of high unemployment rates, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy.

The policy went back into effect in January.

He said his agency was told by the Department of Children and Families that the new policy would affect 20,000 to 25,000 people.

The policy requires that abled bodied adults without dependents between the ages of 18 and 49 work or volunteer 20 hours a week in order to receive benefits. Without working, recipients of SNAP can only use benefits for three months.

2016 statistics from the The United States Department of Agriculture say that most recipients of SNAP do work. Twenty-two percent of SNAP participants work full time, are caretakers, or are part of a training program. Fourteen percent of people are working less than 30 hours a week, are unemployed or are registered for work. The other 64 percent of recipients are children, elderly, or disabled.

“SNAP participation will vary from month to month,” Borman said in an email. “While it is a positive sign to see a number like this decline, there are tens of thousands of Palm Beach County residents who are eligible for the benefit who are not receiving it.”

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