The state of Missouri reportedly cut off food stamps for more than 26,000 adult residents on April 1. According to Opposing Views, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility requirements that were in place prior to the recession have been restored. So, now there are stricter regulations to prevent residents from receiving benefits if they are not meeting the requirements. There is also a stipulation on the amount of time a SNAP recipient can receive food stamps.
It has been reported that the 26,000 recipients who have lost benefits just in the month of April actually equate to approximately 3 percent of the 830,000 individuals currently receiving benefits. Those who were cut reportedly exhausted the limitation of three months every three years for able-bodied individuals. The previous mandate, which introduced lenient work requirements for able-bodied adults, aged 18-49 with no children or a disability, has been overturned and now those recipients are being forced to work a minimum of 20 hours a week or volunteer at a state-approved facility. If they do not meet the work requirement within three months, their SNAP benefits will be cut.
According to the Washington Post, work-mandate waivers are usually put in place during times of financial crisis when unemployment rates are heightened. During recessions, it becomes quite difficult for an influx of individuals to find employment in a relatively short period of time, which is why many states decided to suspend the work requirement. Now that Missouri’s unemployment rate has declined, the possibility of finding employment is much higher for job seekers. For this reason, Missouri officials believe it is now time to reintroduce the work mandate.
Although many political officials believe stripping food stamp recipients of their benefits will create an incentive for them to find work, the change still may not attract the result officials were hoping for.
According to KBIA Radio, former SNAP recipients are now utilizing another resource to get food — Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri. Former food stamp recipient and Missouri resident, Jamie Sloan, recently shared her reaction to the changes and how the Food Bank has proven to be quite beneficial during her time of financial hardship.
“Honestly, I thought I was gonna die,” Sloan said after learning she was one of the 26,000 food stamp recipients to be cut. “I cried. I just fell on the floor and started bawling.”
Although the Missouri Food Bank has seen an increase in the number of visitors, Bobbie Kincaid, the Food Bank’s associate director, insists there is more than enough food available to accommodate those in need. While the Food Bank doesn’t have income requirements, it still shouldn’t be considered residents’ main source for groceries.
“We’re very confident we can meet the need,” said Kincaid. “We’re bursting at the seams, and we have been blessed with an abundant amount of food.”
“We try to look at it that we help the people in need,” she said. “Everybody’s circumstances are different. Some people might need food assistance for a very short time; sometimes they just need that bridge to get them over a really tough time. We are not the answer for all their food needs by any stretch of the imagination.”
The latest push for changes to the Missouri SNAP benefit requirements follows a string of reports detailing the reasons behind the seemingly abrupt changes. Although work incentive has been one of the reasons behind the major push for other states to do away with the work-mandate waiver, there are some officials who believe cutting food stamp recipients isn’t the best way to motivate job seekers to find work.
Jeanette Mott Oxford, a representative for the social welfare advocacy organization Empower Missouri, recently cited a number of reasons why cutting people off tends to have negative effects on the community over time.
“There’s quite of bit of changes happening in our state just now that could deepen poverty and hunger,” said Mott Oxford. “When people are made hungry, there really is no good that comes of it. Any notion that people can magically find a job just because they’re hungry, is just magical thinking.”
Do you think cutting Missouri food stamp recipients off is the best way to encourage them to work? Share your thoughts.
[Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images]