A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Some Kentuckians risk losing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in debt-ceiling talks

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

More than 17,000 Kentuckians could lose food assistance when pre-pandemic SNAP work requirements go back into effect this summer, for adults between ages 18 and 49.

That’s on top of a proposal House Republicans are pushing in the debt-ceiling bill in Congress that would implement work requirements for people up to age 55.

According to AARP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program likely played a role in keeping the percentage of food-insecure Americans ages 50 and older stagnant during the pandemic, at around 9.5 million people nationwide. (NKyTribune file)

Groups working to fight hunger say the combination could trigger a food insecurity crisis.

Cassidy Wheeler, advocacy coordinator for the nonprofit Feeding Kentucky, said the Commonwealth ranks second nationwide for food insecurity among people in their 50s.

She said rural communities left behind in the tech era have made finding employment difficult.

“We have a lot of blue-collar workers here in Kentucky,” said Wheeler, “who maybe have worked in factories their whole lives, farmed, or they’ve done some sort of physically intensive job that they’re not able to do anymore. And they may not have the skill set now, to transition into a different field.”

Backers of work requirements say it’s one way to reduce fraud and trim the budget by providing aid only to those who need it most.

Anyone concerned about their eligibility should call the Department of Community Based Services at 1-885-306-8959 or visit the Kentucky SNAP Benefits website through kynect.ky.gov.

According to an American Economic Association study, work reporting requirements could mean more than half of a state’s SNAP participants losing assistance – and are most likely to affect people without stable housing.

Wheeler added that many older Kentuckians are living with conditions that make it challenging to meet work requirements, but they don’t qualify for disability benefits.

“Taking away someone’s SNAP benefits is not going to make them find a job faster or easier,” said Wheeler. “They will just be hungry while they’re doing it.”

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy estimates more than 9,000 people in 39 counties, largely in eastern Kentucky, would be exempt from reporting work hours due to higher-than-average unemployment rates.

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