Work requirements for SNAP eligibility expanding nationwide next week
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Starting next week, many Americans will face new requirements to stay eligible for federal food assistance.
Right now, certain Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, are required to work or volunteer 20 hours a week to stay eligible.
In the coming weeks, more people will be under that requirement.
“DSS, again, did not make this decision. We just implement what is required by the federal government, and President Biden signed this as part of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, so that’s where these changes came into place,” said Connelly-Anne Ragley, director of communications and external affairs for the Department of Social Services, which oversees SNAP in South Carolina.
This requirement currently applies to SNAP recipients determined to be Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents ages 18 to 49.
On Sept. 1, that age range bumps up to 18 to 50, and then on Oct. 1, it expands again to 18 to 52.
“If they have received SNAP benefits and they now meet this criteria, we will begin screening to make sure that they are working or doing volunteer work that is required,” Ragley said.
There are exceptions to this work requirement, some of which are new.
These are for people who are unable work because of a physical or mental disability, those who live in a SNAP household with a minor, those who are pregnant, those who are veterans, those who are homeless, and people formerly in foster care, up to age 24.
Sue Berkowitz, director of South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, said if SNAP recipients get a notice they will soon be under the work requirements, they should be aware of the exemptions and see if any apply to them.
“We want people to understand that so they can tell their DSS worker and, despite all the other obstacles in their way of being able to work, they’re at least not being forced to go hungry,” Berkowitz said.
Lawmakers put a temporary law in the current state budget, called a proviso, that prohibits the state, through DSS, from seeking and applying for any additional waivers relating to the SNAP work requirement, something that other states might do.
“It really does need to be reexamined,” Berkowitz said. “We don’t have to file for exemptions, but if they’re needed, why are we taking that away from the agency?”
SNAP recipients who fall in the work requirement age range and do not have an exemption and fail to meet that work requirement can only receive benefits for three months.
Then they lose their benefits for the next 36 months, unless they start and continue to meet that work requirement.
Ragley said DSS works with other groups to connect SNAP recipients with work opportunities, assisting more than 700 people in attaining employment since the start of this year.
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