How will the debt package affect SNAP?

Food pantries like FACES saw a large uptick when emergency allotments for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) stopped in March. According to FACES President Joanna Baker, in one month the number of students participating in their school backpack program, which gives students who may be experiencing food insecurities food for the weekend, jumped from 52 to 80.

Now residents will be experiencing some more changes to the SNAP program, as a result of the recent debt ceiling package. On Saturday, June 3, the Fiscal Responsibility Act was signed into law. This legislative package was agreed upon by the White House and House Speaker to suspend the national debt ceiling limit through Monday, Jan. 1, 2025. The package includes spending cuts and policy changes to keep spending under the debt ceiling until 2025.

SOME CHANGES TO SNAP

Under the previous law, adults ages 18 to 49 who are able to work and don’t have children, were required to work at least 20 hours a week to receive SNAP benefits unless they met other criteria. If you don’t work at least 20 hours, then you could only receive SNAP for three months out of every three years.

All of that is still in place, with one change. The upper age limit for work requirements will eventually be raised to 55. This will happen in three phases, starting on Friday, Sept. 1, when it goes to age 50. At that point, 50 year olds would also have to follow the work requirements in order to get SNAP benefits. It will continue climbing over the next two years, until work requirements include all SNAP applicants through age 55.

Other changes in the bill include adding three new population exemptions from this working requirement including individuals who are unhoused, veterans and those 24 years or younger who were in foster care.

“We’ve heard talks of these changes but nothing has trickled down to us yet,” said Kimberly Allen, director at the Prince Edward County Department of Social Services.

According to Allen, before the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the state was already planning to reinstate work requirements on Saturday, July 1. Due to the act passing a short time ago, they are still waiting on official documentation from the federal level explaining these changes. However, those affected by the July 1 change have received notice and information about it.

According to Baker, at this time it doesn’t seem that FACES’ clients will be affected too much by this change. At least for now. She points out nobody knows what will happen as the changes start to phase in over the next two years.

“When you combine the reality of greater numbers of people seeking assistance and the increasing cost of food to serve them, it becomes apparent that food pantries are going to be stretching their resources to cover the need,” said Baker.