Food pantries and social service agencies across Indiana are bracing for the possibility that up to 50,000 people could lose food stamp benefits this fall unless they comply with a change in federal work and job training requirements.
Indiana had suspended Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program requirements for able-bodied adults who don't have dependents under a 2009 waiver because of high unemployment during the recession. But come November, those rules will be reinstated and recipients could lose an average of $125 a month in benefits if they fail to work a certain number of hours or participate in a training program.
The Indiana Association of United Ways is concerned about the impact on not-for-profit groups as people are dropped from assistance, said Lucinda Nord, vice president of public policy for the organization.
"We are hearing that food pantry demand has not declined, and to have such a high number of folks losing their SNAP all at once could have a big demand on the food pantries, the community centers and the churches that offer that kind of assistance," she told The Indianapolis Star.
Under the requirements, able-bodied SNAP recipients ages 18 to 49 without dependents would need to work an average of 20 hours per week, participate in an approved job training program or meet other requirements, according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. If not, benefits would be limited to three months in a 36-month period.
Food Finders Food Bank in Lafayette is expecting a slow swell in demand, Executive Director Katy Bunder said. The organization's budget is set for the year, so it will need to shift to cheaper sources of food that will be less diverse and nutritionally balanced, she said.
"Over time, many people will get their food stamps back, if they find half-time employment or enter into a job training program," she told the (Lafayette) Journal & Courier. "But I think we're going to have a really rough year sorting through that."
Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said he didn't believe it made sense to make people ineligible for food stamps if they aren't working.
"With the number of Hoosier citizens out of work, they don't have the ability to provide for their families," he told the (Merrillville) Post-Tribune. "We should have educational and training programs to make them job-ready if jobs should occur."
Family and Social Services Administration spokeswoman Marni Lemons said letters about the requirement changes were sent last month to about 6 percent of the some 836,000 SNAP recipients in the state, or slightly more than 50,000 people. However, the state is making a bid to help people find work.
"It's an employment training program," Lemons said. "It says, 'We've made an appointment for you.' What they do is help to create resumes and even provide clothing to wear to job interviews.
"The point is to absolutely get folks back to work so that they no longer require the assistance of SNAP."