150,000 Tennesseans could lose food stamp benefits in 2016

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- More than 100,000 Tennesseans are at risk of losing their current food stamp benefits this year.

In 2008, work requirements for food stamps were waived because of the recession. On December 31st 2015, this waiver ended in more than a dozen states including Tennessee.

Now, able-bodied adults 18 through 49 who don’t have kids or other dependents must now work, volunteer, or get job training to keep year round Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits.

A spokesperson with Tennessee’s Department of Human Services said across the state about 150,000 SNAP recipients  fall in to this category.

If they do not meet these requirements, they are limited to three months of SNAP benefits in a three year time span.

So for people who did not meet work requirements when the waiver expired, and still don’t by April 1st, their benefits will end.

“It’s going to be a real tough situation on a lot of folks,” Jason Dalton a case worker for the Salvation Army in Johnson City said. “There’s going to be a few people who are very upset because it’s something that’s helped them and been helping them for so long.”

Dalton said he predicts this change will hit the homeless the hardest.

“There’s just flat out no way to prepare for it… you have no income, you already struggling…but that’s one of the things that could possibly keep you afloat,” Dalton said.

He said this change will bring more demand for free meals like the ones the Salvation Army offers twice a day.

“We’re going to see an uptick definitely in the people coming across the street and eating dinner,” Dalton said.

At food banks like Second Harvest, “That will mean that more people may be visiting a food pantry or soup kitchen so it’s more important than ever that we build our supplies right now,” Kathy Smith with Second Harvest Food Bank said.

We reached out to U.S. Representative Phil Roe (TN-1) who gave us this statement:

“Work requirements for government assistance are not new. In fact, such requirements have received bipartisan support as President Bill Clinton championed welfare reform in the 90s. These requirements simply mandate that able-bodied adults who have no dependents work, volunteer or continue their education. SNAP benefits are intended to temporarily assist families while they work to lift themselves out of poverty, and I believe we should encourage recipients to seek employment, give back to their community through volunteering or participate in training so they can find permanent employment.”

Tennessee Department of Human Services said certain exceptions do apply and anyone with any questions should contact their caseworker to see what is required in their specific case.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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