March 13, 2019 – In the fight against hunger across the United States, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) remains the nation’s most effective tool, providing food assistance to 38 million Americans and generating economic activity in every community. SNAP helps people access nutritious food when they don’t have the financial resources to make ends meet.  Through SNAP, roughly 615,000 Oregonians receive assistance each month.

SNAP benefits should be available to everyone during tough times. Unfortunately, the program imposes a harsh time limit on able-bodied participants between the ages of 18 to 49 who are not raising children, limiting them to receiving nutrition benefits for three months out of every three years, unless they are able to work at least 20 hours per week. People in this situation can face any number of obstacles to employment – a lack of living wage jobs, access to transportation, language proficiency or discrimination, to name a few. These participants are referred to as ABAWDs or Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents.

States can currently request waivers from the ABAWD time limit so that people who live in areas experiencing high unemployment continue to have access to SNAP. Currently, 23 Oregon counties and 38 Washington counties utilize such waivers (in fact, all but one state has utilized these waivers).These are largely rural areas where unemployment rates are high and jobs are difficult to find. The current administration is attempting to chip away at SNAP eligibility by proposing a new rule that would dramatically limit states’ ability to waive the ABAWD time limit in these high unemployment areas. This rule would cut SNAP benefits to an estimated 755,000 individuals across the country and result in a loss of almost a billion meals each year.

Oregon Food Bank supports building an economy where people who can work can find living wage jobs. However, more rigid and restrictive SNAP time limits won’t help us get there. SNAP is a nutrition program, not a jobs program. Proposals to expand time limits will result in cutting food benefits. SNAP is a critical resource needed to put healthy food on the table and keep people out of poverty. In fact, SNAP aids in keeping more than eight million people in our country out of poverty.

Additionally, the proposed rule side-steps congressional authority. Last year, Congress kept state waivers and flexibility through the farm bill, which reauthorizes SNAP. It includes funding for work training pilots, a better approach to equipping SNAP recipients with the tools they need secure jobs.

As we have for more than 30 years, Oregon Food Bank is committed to weathering both the known and unknown repercussions of the political and economic climate. The public has until April 2, 2019 to submit unique comments to the USDA in opposition to the administration’s rule proposal. Take 5 minutes right now to tell the USDA why the ABAWD rule change is bad for people who are hungry and bad for Oregon.

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