Will There Be Civil Unrest As Over 500,000 People lose ‘SNAP’ Benefits?

As many as one million Americans will stop receiving food stamps effective from April 2, 2016. This is as a result of a 20-year old work mandate which requires all adults without children or disabilities to be employed in order to receive food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The 20-year old rule, which was suspended during the economic recession, requires that adults should be employed at least three months before they can be eligible for government aid, with few exceptions.

As the economy continues on its upward surge, as many as 22 states are beginning to re-impose the federal rule, with the largest group of states doing so at the beginning of the year. Due to this, many recipients’ three-month limits expired on April 1.

This development has raised fierce debates between conservatives and liberals with the former stating that waiving the mandate will discourage people from working while the latter’s stance is that the three-month limit doesn’t take into consideration the difficulties low-skilled workers face in securing jobs.

Republican presidential nominee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who in 1996 helped author the work as a congressman, is taking the republican stance which argues that able-bodied individuals should not be eligible for SNAP benefits. To further buttress his action, he decided not to request an extension of the statewide waiver of the work mandate, enforcing the rule in all but Ohio’s most economically depressed, rural counties.

Kasich’s spokesman Rob Nichols said that reinstating the federal rule will motivate people to seek better work in a vastly improving economy.

He continues:

“These are, again, adults — no dependents, physically and mentally capable of working…Just as much as we believe in the social safety net, we also believe it’s a sin not to help oneself.”

For the federal work requirement to be waived, an area must have an unemployment rate above 10%, an unemployment rate that’s 20% higher than the national average, or the local labor market must qualify as weak through other parameters.

Some states that are considered economically weak have taken this self-imposed waiver without recourse to how the people may react to the decision. These states are Mississippi, South-Carolina, and West-Virginia. Two of the states – Mississippi and West-Virginia have unemployment rates of 6.5% as against the national average of 5%. Only Alaska has a worse percentage at 6.6%.

This clearly shows that these states shouldn’t have applied for the waiver. It’s also becoming clearer that a large number of people may have to go hungry due to this change.

While state officials mailed out notices and the media gave adequate coverage of this change, food bank staffs around the country are worried that those affected by the rule may only find out when their expected government aid does not arrive for the month.

According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, between 500,000 and 1 million people will lose SNAP benefits over the course of 2016 as a result of the reinstated work mandate.

With the current number of those that receive aid standing at around 46 million people, it remains to be seen how these huge number of people will be cared for in an economy where they can barely live off 40 hours of work, due to the rising cost of living.

If the states have decided that this is in the interest of their citizens; have they proposed to train the affected people or provide them with job assistance?

Food for thought.


Featured Image Credit: Todd Van Hoosear Via Flickr Under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Olumide currently lives in Lagos, Nigeria from where he consults with clients on Content Management, Leadership, Security Systems Management, and Social Media. His quest for knowledge has taken him across many fields including; Information Systems Management, Security Systems Management, Massage Therapy, Business and Content Development, and Social Media Management. He is passionate about nature, the God-concept, music, relationships, motivation and people management,and finally, health and wellness. He is rebranding and starting a blog on fitness; www.fitnessoutput.com.