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Scheduled SNAP changes worry local food banks

Experts say this proposal could cut benefits for nearly 688,000 SNAP recipients nationwide.

Posted: Dec 5, 2019 7:18 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Trump Administration is making changes to work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP), which provides food stamps nationwide.

The administration announced the changes on Wednesday, saying they are trying to restore the original intent of food stamps.  

Experts said this proposal could cut benefits for nearly 688,000 SNAP recipients nationwide, and a representative with Food For Lane County said more than 1,000 people would be affected in Lane County alone.

Under the rule change, able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 that don't have kids or anyone else to take care of besides themselves will no longer be able to receive SNAP benefits unless they're working at least 20 hours a week or participating in a education or training program.

Currently, eligible people can receive SNAP benefits for a maximum of three months during a three-year period. The three-month limit does not apply if they are working or enrolled in an education or training program 80 hours a month.

The government argues the purpose of the these changes is to encourage those who can work to get a job.

Officials said about 7% of all individuals on the program would be cut off, saving about $1.1 billion every year.

Volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul's food room said there is fear these changes could be disastrous for people struggling with food insecurity.

"My first thought was, how's this going to affect us? We're already seeing an increase in people coming through, based on the last reduction, and just the economy, the rents, I think a lot of different reasons," said Melinda Zugelder, assistant manager at the food room.

Tom Mulhern, the executive director at Food For Lane County, said the SNAP changes are not recognizing many individuals that still need the benefits. 

"People who are seen as able-bodied 'cause they're not on government disability benefits but they're really not able-bodied and many homeless persons who are living on the street would fit into this category," said Mulhern. 

The changes to SNAP are scheduled to take effect in April of 2020.

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