About 18,300 people in Indiana this month have lost an average of $125 of monthly food stamp benefits after a change in work and job training requirements.
In July, Indiana reinstated Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program requirements for able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 who don't have dependents to work an average of 20 hours a week, participate in an approved job training program or meet other requirements. Those requirements had been suspended since 2009 because of high unemployment during the recession.
Recipients are kicked off of SNAP benefits after three noncompliant months. Notices were sent out in mid-October to 18,333 people that their November benefits were being taken away, The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette reported.
Letters about the requirement changes were sent to about 6 percent of Indiana's roughly 836,000 SNAP recipients, or about 50,000 people, according to the state Family and Social Services Administration website. Those affected were given appointments with the Indiana Manpower Placement and Comprehensive Training program.
Training program director Jim Morris said it included an orientation session and a meeting with a case manager to put together a plan to address possible barriers to employment. The program also has a bank of available jobs.
Indiana SNAP program head David Smalley said those appointments had an attendance rate of 13.6 percent, above the national average of 12 percent.
"It shocks me," Morris said. "If I'm getting a benefit, I'm going. No questions asked."
There are many reasons people don't show up, Morris said. Some had recently found jobs and were ineligible, and others were disabled and hadn't documented it with the state. Some women had a child and were no longer affected.
"The ones who come in and see us are usually very receptive," Morris said.
Family and Social Services Administration spokeswoman Marni Lemons said officials have worked to be proactive about the change. The state has worked with partners to prepare social service organizations for more calls.
Jaimie Ferren with United Way of Allen County said calls are trickling in from those who are going without food stamps, and that they're not sure what to do. The organization refers people to food banks or soup kitchens, free legal services if they need to appeal the decision to end benefits, and job placement and education programs.
"We are braced and ready," Ferren said.