In 2009, President Obama waived these Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations due to the hardships of the recession. Now, with an improving economy, 46.5 million Americans, including those experiencing homelessness, are facing increased restrictions and maybe even lower benefits. Slowly, states have begun to resume their former, restrictive policies: Florida is now one of those. States deemed to have an “acceptable level of economic recovery” are able to appeal to continue waiving the “new” requirements, but Florida legislators are already pushing to impose them anyway.
According to ACCESS Florida’s website, ABAWD (Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents), aged18 – 50, are the people who will be affected by this policy change. If they’re not exempted because of pregnancy, disability or active participation in a certified substance abuse treatment program, they will be required to participate in a series of orientation sessions and introductory classes administered through the Local Workforce Development Area program. After completing the classes, they will have to spend 20 hours per week in employment, job training or volunteer service.
Documentation must be reported to the Workforce Development office. If anyone in the household breaks the rules, or is indicted for “drug trafficking or running away from a felony warrant”, the family’s food stamp benefits will be cut or suspended.
It is unclear at this point if ABAWD’s will be required to be re-certified every three months or once a year. Letters to all those presumed to be affected have already been sent out to those who have an address and can receive mail.
Hardships of epic proportions are foreseen for those who are experiencing homelessness, “barely housed”, or struggling with jobs that may only provide 10-15 hours a week of low-wage work. To avoid food insecurity and starvation, homeless and poor households must overcome obstacles such as food “deserts,” underemployment, rising market-rate rents, insufficient affordable housing, lack of a mailing address and more. Even the lack of money for public transportation puts many at risk for losing their benefits if they miss classes or other required activities.
The Food Research and Action Center reports participation in SNAP dropped by more than one million people in October 2015 – the fifth straight monthly decline in SNAP participation due to an improved economy. Still, SNAP matters for many Americans still
"Hardships of epic proportions are foreseen for those who are experiencing homelessness, “barely housed”, or struggling with jobs that may only provide 10-15 hours a week of low-wage work."
Food stamps have been the backbone for survival for so many that there is good reason to fear deaths from actual starvation, as well as unsustainable demands on food banks and other providers. We must push our legislators for more benefits and less burdensome regulations to support those desperately seeking a way up and out of hunger and poverty.
For more information contact:
ACCESS Florida: (866)762-2237
Sources: Pew Charitable Trust Research and Analysis, 9/15/14
Florida SUNCAP website
Department of Children and Families
Orlando Sun Sentinel. 12/31/15, Skyler Swisher
The Food Research and Action Center
(Written by Jacquelyn Bishop, CO! Contributing Writer and member of the Board of Directors)