Under the new House Republican proposal, if such individuals can’t find at least a half-time job, they will summarily be thrown off the program after three months — irrespective of how high local unemployment is. The individuals in question are among the poorest people in the United States. SNAP program data show their average income is just 22 percent of the poverty line, about $2,500 a year for a single individual. For most of them, SNAP is the only state or federal income assistance available. On average they will receive about $160 a month in SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014.
The three-month rule is not a work requirement. It denies basic food assistance to people who want to work and will accept any job or work slot offered them, and it does not require states to provide work or job training opportunities to these individuals. Thus, the three-month rule is not a test of individuals’ willingness to work. Indeed, it applies to people who have worked for years but have lost their jobs for any reason, including plant closings or outsourcing, and can’t quickly find new employment.
The impact, on communities as well as individuals, would be significant and be felt throughout the country. The increased demand on already-strained local services and charities would be substantial — either displacing support for other needy residents, such as seniors and low-income working families, or leaving jobless adults without food. (Table 1 lists the number of people in each state who meet the criteria for people subject to the three-month cutoff, based on data for fiscal year 2011.)
Demographically, the group is diverse. More than 40 percent are women. One-third (34 percent) are over age 40. Some 37 percent of the women who would lose benefits are over age 40. Among those who report their race, about half are white (not Hispanic), a third are African American (not Hispanic), one in ten is Hispanic, and about 5 percent are Native American. About 50,000 of such jobless adults were veterans in 2011, according to Census data.
Most of these childless adults are ineligible for any other federal income assistance — or, in most states, for any state or local cash assistance, no matter how poor they are. Most states and localities have eliminated cash “general assistance” programs for unemployed childless adults, leaving most of those who are affected by the three-month SNAP cutoff without any other benefits. Moreover, because these adults aren’t raising children or disabled, they are ineligible for Medicaid as well.
Number of SNAP Participants Aged 18-50, Not Raising Minor Children, and Not Employed 20 Hours Per Week, Based on Fiscal Year 2011 Data
|District of Columbia||22,000|