Food stamps ending for some in towns with high employment

snap logo largeWashington – The state’s economic upturn – at least in about half of Connecticut’s cities and towns – isn’t good news for about 3,600 food stamp recipients. They will lose their benefits in about three months unless they get a job or job training.

In 2009, because of the economic pain caused by the Great Recession, states were able to obtain a waiver from regulations of the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), the official name for food stamps. The waiver allowed single adults with no children and no job to obtain benefits. They are considered “Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp program.

That waiver has expired completely in some states. In others, like Connecticut, cities and towns where employment rates are high – and as a result are considered to have a “surplus of jobs” – will no longer be eligible for the waiver.

Some of the cities and towns that will still be eligible for benefits are Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, East Haven, New London and Norwalk.

But ABAWD  recipients living in 87 other Connecticut towns, including Torrington, Stamford, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Trumbull, will lose their benefits on April 1 – unless they get jobs, education or training for at least 20 hours a week. Those with jobs would still have to qualify under food stamp program guidelines. (Follow this link to find out if you are affected.)

The Connecticut Department of Social Services has advised food stamp recipients that they may lose benefits because the economy has improved. It urged those affected to “call or go to your local American Job Center or your local community action agency” for help.

David Dearborn, spokesman for the state Department of Social Services, said the state’s notification from the USDA of the end of the waiver is “very good news overall because the unemployment rate has fallen in Connecticut.”

“Regardless of town of residence, beneficiaries meeting the ABAWD criteria… can participate in the work requirements and keep benefits,” he said.

The USDA estimates up to 500,000 food stamp recipients nationwide are in line to lose their SNAP benefits.

“Unfortunately, while the economists have told us the recession is over, that’s not true for tens of millions of Americans, “ said USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon. To keep some people covered, “we encourage states to provide as much education and training as they can,” he said.

Studying for a GED, computer lessons or training to be a long-distance truck driver would protect food stamp benefits for those living in towns that will no longer be subject to the waiver.

The federal government will split the cost of this training 50-50 with states that provide such training.

Concannon said Connecticut does a better job of taking advantage of this program than any other New England state.

“But if I were in Connecticut, I would say ‘what more can I do to help these people?” he said.

Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut!, a nonprofit group that helps people sign up for SNAP, also said the state “has done a very good job protecting people who are on the program.”

“But there are people who still need the program being told they are getting kicked off,” she said.

Some states, including Rhode Island, Michigan and Illinois, will continue to receive waivers for all of their citizens because they have not come out of the recession completely.

The 3,600 SNAP recipients in Connecticut in danger of losing benefits are a fraction of the overall number of those receiving foods stamps in the state, about 411,000.

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