Beginning in October, food stamp recipients in West Virginia will be forced to meet a new requirement in order to receive the benefit of the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The bill was signed by Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday and will change the way some recipients of the SNAP benefit are able to receive it, as it will apply to any “able-bodied” adult.
According to the bill, an “able-bodied” adult is anyone from 18 to 49 who is not pregnant, disabled and has no dependents or military status.
In order to receive SNAP benefits, the recipients will also have to put in hours at either a job, volunteer work or participate in workforce training, for a minimum pf 20 hours per week.
The bill was signed alongside a host of other bills, but no press conference or news release followed.
Though lawmakers on both sides supported the newly-implemented plan, a few Democrats voiced their opposition to it, including Seth DiStefano, the director of policy for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
“The bill will make it much more difficult for thousands of West Virginians to get the food assistance they need when times are tough, and is estimated to remove $18 million in federal SNAP dollars from our struggling economy,” DiStefano said.
“Data from the state’s pilot program showed work requirements did not increase workforce participation,” Stefano added. “The bill doubles down on a failed policy at the expense of some of the most vulnerable West Virginians.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the maximum benefit for stamps is roughly $6.40 a day, which translates to nearly $192 per month.
Data from the USDA suggests nearly 14.9 percent of households faced some type of food insecurity within the state of West Virginia from 2014 to 2016 — a 5.6 percent increase from 2004 to 2006.
Though tightening the requirements, the bill would also allow recipient in select counties to submit a work requirement waiver until fall of 2022.
After that particular time has passed, no “able-bodied” working adults still within the state will be allowed to receive waivers from the state’s work requirement.
As of now, 46 of 55 counties in West Virginia have work requirement waivers.
Other states, such as Alabama and Georgia, have similar requirements for recipients of food stamps.
The bill itself has created many supporters, who say it will help prevent certain recipients from abusing the system and force people to start working again for a living — even if it is only on a volunteer basis.
Opponents of the bill, however, have argued it will only push the struggling poor further away from the program.
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