Fewer Receive Food Stamps as States Change Rules

By: - August 23, 2016 12:00 am

As more states require adults to work or get job training in order to receive food stamps, the number of people receiving the benefits is falling at an unprecedented rate, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The number of people receiving food stamps fell by about 773,000 in April alone, in part because 22 states changed their rules in January for adults receiving food stamps. The states reinstated work requirements for able-bodied adults under 50, giving them three months — or until April — to find work or take part in job training or an education program in order to continue to receive benefits. Sometimes those changes were made in response to federal requirements. In other instances, governors chose to make the changes on their own.

About 43.5 million people received food stamps in May, compared to 45.5 million in May 2015, according to USDA, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, better known as food stamps.

The federal government had suspended the work requirements in 2009, but has slowly been requiring states to reinstate them as their economies improve. Able-bodied adults under 50 are now subject to the requirements in all but eight states and the District of Columbia, compared to 28 states and D.C. at the same time last year.

Some governors are choosing to reinstate the rules, even when the federal government would still give benefits to nonworking adults in their states. This year, governors in seven states — Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and New Jersey — made that decision, according to Bloomberg.

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Jen Fifield

Jen Fifield reports on rural issues for Stateline, She has covered government in Maryland and Arizona. She has won several regional journalism awards, and was recently a fellow in the Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She graduated with honors from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.