Beginning June 1st, nearly 10,000 residents of Allegheny County will see their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits taken away. SNAP provides food stamps for unemployed or underemployed adults across the country. The loss of benefits has Rochelle Jackson, public policy advocate for the Southside based Just Harvest, concerned. She spoke with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer about this issue.
The improving economy is one the reason SNAP benefits are being taken away. As part of a 1996 welfare reform, a requirement was placed in the SNAP program where benefits would be rescinded should the unemployment rate decrease. While the Great Recession kept unemployment rates high for the past 10 years, they have dropped in recent years.
“This is a reeducation for a lot of people,” said Jackson.
Food stamps will no longer be delivered to adults aged 18 to 50 who are neither disabled nor raising children. In order for people to keep their rates is by attending school, job training, working 20 hours a week, or performing 6 hours a week of community service.
“These are veterans who have their own challenges with finding and keeping employment,” Jackson said of those affected. “These are people who have their own criminal records that may be from 10, 20 years ago but nevertheless, it’s impacting their ability to find sustainable employment.”
Homeless people, victims of domestic violence, and pregnant women are also at risk, Jackson added.
Even with SNAP, people receiving benefits do not receive much in aid. Beneficiaries can expect $194 a month in food stamps, with an additional $80 added for each child.
“It really does not get somebody from the beginning of the month to the end,” Jackson said. “But for these individuals, who don’t have any other type of income… this is all they have to feed themselves.”
Just Harvest is promising to help where it can. The organization will assist people get to work, classes, or find community service in order to keep their food stamps.
More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.