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Where does the recent debt ceiling bill leave SNAP recipients?

For even the most committed news buff, you’d be forgiven for losing track of the actual substance of the recent Federal debt negotiations and eventual agreement. Perhaps you caught that benefits programs—in particular the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—featured prominently, but where did it all land?

How has eligibility for SNAP benefits changed?

Originally known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP is designed to provide increased access to food for low-income working Americans, as well as the disabled and the elderly unable to work. In 2022, approximately 12.6% of Americans participated in SNAP, with spending on the program comprising a little over 2% of the Federal budget.

Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-50 without dependents are limited to three months of SNAP benefits during any 36-month period if they cannot show they are employed or in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week. The recently signed debt ceiling bill includes the following changes to SNAP work requirements:

  • Work requirements will be extended up to age 54 for those without dependants.

  • However, the following groups are newly exempted:

    • Those experiencing homelessness of all ages

    • Veterans of all ages

    • Youth ages 18-24 who aged out of foster care

What is the anticipated impact?

It’s estimated that the extended age range for work requirements could affect about 750,000 adults. There is optimism, however, that new exemptions will offset this number and could potentially increase total eligible participants. The data for assessing this impact are imperfect, however, and the actual impact of these policy changes will depend on federal and state implementation decisions.

On the subject of SNAP work requirements, research indicates they have little effect on increasing employment, the primary argument of proponents. In practice, work requirements mostly prove a barrier to those in need. Anti-hunger advocates continue to argue for their elimination.

“It’s not doing anything to help them, to help the economy. It’s just a punitive way to take food away from people,” said Ellen Vollinger, SNAP director at the Food Research and Action Center.

What can you do?

Working locally, we’re reminded daily that behind all the numbers and statistics are real people who benefit from real help. Sign up to stay in touch and up to date on the fight against hunger in Connecticut.


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