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At the end of March, the state estimates that roughly 12,000 unemployed Arkansans will lose their food-stamp benefits because of the imposition of work requirements on adults in the program.

On Jan. 1, the state began enforcing requirements that limit food-assistance benefits to three months for able-bodied, childless adults ages 18-49, if they are not employed, in school, or participating in a job-training or volunteer program. The state is now sending out 12,000 notices to the first round of people who are expected to lose food-stamp benefits April 1.

The three-month limit previously had been waived in Arkansas and several other states as the country struggled through a recession, and unemployment skyrocketed. Now, the federal government is reimposing the requirements.

Arkansas is one of 23 states where the limits are in place for the first time since the recession, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The center estimates that between 500,000 and 1 million Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will have their food-stamp benefits cut this year.

In Arkansas, state agencies and nonprofits, however, are developing options to help recipients meet the new requirements and continue to receive benefits.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the SNAP to Skills program, a two-year program in which federal resources will assist states in building job-training efforts aimed at moving adults off food stamps.

Organizations like the Arkansas Foodbank also offer volunteer opportunities and coordinate with the Department of Human Services in helping volunteers meet food-stamp requirements.

"Our pantries and local agencies are there to help provide them with food they may need," said Rhonda Sanders, chief executive officer of the Arkansas Foodbank.

"We're also working on allowing folks who need job training and job opportunities to hook up with some of our pantries and actually work there and learn skills of how to manage inventory and customer service. Things like that we feel would be a good opportunity for them to enhance job skills," she added.

Though Arkansas' employment rate has recovered to pre-recession levels, many areas in the state are still lagging. Seven counties along the Mississippi River report an average 8 percent unemployment rate -- roughly 2.3 percent above the state average, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These counties, along with 51 others, would still be eligible for exemption from the three-month cap, according to data provided by the state Department of Human Services. To receive exemptions, the counties must receive waivers, something Gov. Asa Hutchinson has chosen not to seek to renew.

"It's personal accountability. If you're receiving these SNAP benefits you can continue to receive those SNAP benefits, but you have to work if you're between 18 and 49 -- that's a conservative philosophy that the governor believes," Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said.

"We want to encourage people to work, and that's what this is about. They're able-bodied and don't have dependents, so there is an opportunity for them to go out there and work. And for those who aren't working, those benefits will be limited," state Department of Human Services spokesman Amy Webb said.

"Able-bodied" includes those who are not pregnant and are not mentally or physically unfit.

Officials also pointed to an improving economy in which many food-stamp recipients are already relinquishing their food stamps. Data show that more than 288,577 households received the benefits in 2015 -- a 3 percent decrease since 2012.

"We believe this recent drop to be reflective of the improving economy across the state, and, therefore, should continue," Webb said.

Exact numbers on how many people will be affected by the food-stamp changes are unknown. The 12,000 notices were sent to people who did not appear to meet work requirements and who were believed to meet the "able-bodied" definition, Webb said.

Arkansas Foodbank officials also said it was too early to say how many food-stamp recipients might take advantage of the opportunities they provide because of the food-stamp changes.

"It's too early in the process to know how it's going to work out. Hopefully as we go through this and have some time under our belts, we'll have a better answer," said the food bank's Chief Program Officer Jayne Ann Kita.

Metro on 03/07/2016

Print Headline: 12,000 Arkansans to get food-stamp shutoff notices


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Archived Comments

  • wolfman
    March 7, 2016 at 6:44 a.m.

    They don't wanna work. Much easier to just do nothing and get food stamps.

  • dinky1
    March 7, 2016 at 7 a.m.

    It sure would be nice if those that get snap have random drug tests done. The cards should be for food only.

  • PopMom
    March 7, 2016 at 7:17 a.m.

    I am fine with this. Food stamps should be temporary for healthy adults. WIC and school programs should feed the children. We need more aid for school based food programs which should continue in the summer and less aid to deadbeat adult drug addicts.

  • hurricane46
    March 7, 2016 at 9:08 a.m.

    The able-bodied( but lazy) will find a way to compensate losing their food stamps, probably by breaking into more homes and autos and pawning the loot.

  • Packman
    March 7, 2016 at 9:29 a.m.

    People that work for a living do grow tired of supporting people that vote for a living.

  • drs01
    March 7, 2016 at 9:38 a.m.

    12,000 down and hopefully more to follow. I wonder how many children in public schools actually deserve food programs, especially since state aid to public schools is increased by the percentage of kids on free-reduced lunch programs. Seems to me the school district benefits from inflated numbers so they have an incentive to "frog them" up. Just look at the LRSD as a prime example. It's sad that welfare leeches would use CHILDREN to get some free crap. But then it's the monster liberals have created.

  • mrcharles
    March 7, 2016 at 10:33 a.m.

    I agree with drs01. Lets do an analysis of these mooching children, we know they all will not grow up to be brain surgeons and write books and do other stuff for money in our capitalistic society. Also children don't vote so they will be powerless to defend themselves against the corrections those of real Americans and real Christians will make, that of what the man from Galilee would do, I think??

    I do know that Newt the "family values" man thought of having children be janitors, but I wonder at what age we can teach self reliance, which may make lowering the bar from Children to infants. After all as it says in the good book, Saul killed men, women [ it doesn't say how many were pregnant so we don't know if this was like an abortion by killing the mother], children and suckling. What was good enough for Saul ought to be good enough for us.

    Or we could follow the Modest Proposal put forth just a few centuries ago.

    Liberals are sure like monsters, uncaring and evil, unlike conservatives who talk gentle and kind and are the only ones who love America and their Children and Jesus.

    Perhaps we will save enough money to build some more tanks for Cotton's upcoming war with Russia or china, once we stand up to them.

    Once we come together and are unified by the loving pastoral care [ whoops that is what the catholic church said about what was needed to correct what some called an international and widespread abuse of children by church guys- but of course not gays as they have no gays just like in Iran] of Trump or Cruz or Rubio, we will all tow the line or be put in reeducation /work camps, out of love and compassion for us who are so made to question madness.

  • TimberTopper
    March 7, 2016 at 11:36 a.m.

    I could go for the drug test, to get the benefit. However, what about those that are, or have been told they won't be hired because they are over qualified for the job they are applying for, or they have no training to go into a different type of work, that is hiring?
    You can damn the poor and welfare cheaters all you want, but what about those getting the big benefits at the other end of the scale. You know the sweet deals a business gets because of campaign money, or deals for favors to politicians. There in those areas you will find where the waste, fraud, and abuse is really taking place. Not the poor, nor working poor.

  • pcrasehotmailcom
    March 7, 2016 at 11:50 a.m.

    So Chuck and Timber, simple yes or no question here. Should able bodied adults (not children) receive food stamps if they refuse to work, attend school or a work training program?

  • Kharma
    March 7, 2016 at 12:59 p.m.

    The SNAP program as it is presently run is garbage. Those who receive the benefit can buy pretty much anything that has a so called nutrition label. This includes candy, energy drinks from convenience stores at $4-$5 apiece, sugary sodas, chips & dips, and etc.

    I'm all for helping out the truly needy, but it would be with distributions of beans, rice, chicken, milk, cheese, and etc., and not "Here's a card - go buy whatever junk that you want." At least a substantive portion of those receiving the assistance have already proven a lack of an ability to make good choices long-term (many times even passing their welfare culture from generation to generation), so why leave nutrition (at taxpayer's expense) up to them? And bulk food distributions would probably be much less expensive for those of us who fund the largesse.

    In the alternative: Soylent Green anyone?