By Katherine Davis-Young
PHOENIX – More than 960,000 people in Arizona rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but advocates for food security fear the Farm Bill, under consideration in Congress this week, could significantly reduce the program’s accessibility.
Currently, recipients of SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, are required to have jobs, with exemptions for age or disability. But Republican backers of the Farm Bill call current work requirements “insufficient” and “vague.”
Proposed changes would make requirements stricter and penalties harsher for those who don’t comply. For example, if you don’t have a job, new rules would give you only one month to find one. Angie Rodgers, president of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, said that could leave many in Arizona without food assistance.
“Work is important and part of the equation,” she said, “but we really need to have a thoughtful discussion and understanding prior to harsh requirements that take away food from children seniors and families.”
The bill also would raise the age limit for work to require some previously exempted people age 50 and older to find jobs. Rodgers said proposed changes don’t account for child care, transportation or the other hurdles many low-income families face when looking for work.
Arizona families on SNAP assistance currently receive an average of about $270 per month to help out on groceries. Rodgers said Arizona food banks already serve many people whose SNAP benefits aren’t enough to last them through the month.
“Without SNAP there,” she said, “my fear is that we’ll have a number of individuals who come to us on a more regular basis to meet their nutritional needs.”
The House of Representatives is expected to take action on the Farm Bill this week. If passed, it will move to the Senate.