Approximately 1 Million Unemployed Childless Adults Will Lose SNAP Benefits in 2016 as State Waivers Expire: Affected Individuals Are Very Poor; Few Qualify for Other Help

Source: Ed Bolen, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 5, 2015

From the summary:
Roughly 1 million of the nation’s poorest people will be cut off SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) over the course of 2016, due to the return in many areas of a three-month limit on SNAP benefits for unemployed adults aged 18-50 who aren’t disabled or raising minor children. These individuals will lose their food assistance benefits after three months regardless of how hard they are looking for work. ….

…..In the past few years, the three-month limit hasn’t been in effect in most states. The 1996 welfare law allows states to suspend the three-month limit in areas with high and sustained unemployment; many states qualified due to the Great Recession and its aftermath and waived the time limit throughout the state. But as unemployment rates fall, fewer and fewer areas will qualify for waivers. We estimate that the number of states qualifying for state-wide waivers will fall to just a few states by 2016 and that approximately 1 million SNAP recipients will have their benefits cut off due to the time limit in fiscal year 2016.

The loss of this food assistance, which averages approximately $150 to $200 per person per month for this group, will likely cause serious hardship among many. Agriculture Department (USDA) data show that the individuals subject to the three-month limit have average monthly income of approximately 19 percent of the poverty line, and they typically qualify for no other income support.

The indigent individuals at risk are diverse. About 40 percent are women. Close to one-third are over age 40. Among those who report their race, about half are white, a third are African American, and a tenth are Hispanic. Half have only a high school diploma or GED. They live in all areas of the country, and among those for whom data on metropolitan status are available, about 40 percent live in urban areas, 40 percent in suburban areas, and 20 percent in rural areas.

Many in this population, which generally has limited education and skills and limited job prospects, struggle to find employment even in normal economic times. And although the overall unemployment rate is slowly falling, other labor market data indicate that many people who want to work still cannot find jobs, while others who want to work full time can find only part-time employment. Cutting off food assistance to poor unemployed and underemployed workers doesn’t enable them to find employment or secure more hours of work…..