HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Thousands of Alabamians are not receiving food stamps any more because of changes in federal requirements making recipients work or volunteer for at least 20 hours per week.
Robert Gain volunteers in the kitchen at First Stop, Inc. and said he is trying to meet the requirements.
“Most of the people around here, their food stamps are canceled, and this is the only meal they’re going to get today,” Gain said.
Gain’s food stamps ran out on April 1. It’s because of changes to the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which limit people to receive three months of benefits within a three-year time frame unless they are working or volunteer training for at least 20 hours a week.
“We have a volunteer program here but we don’t always have 20 hours a week for somebody to do something,” First Stop, Inc. Executive Director Clete Wetli said.
According to Barry Spear with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, nearly 50,000 able-bodied people in Alabama relied on SNAP as of January 1, 2016. The number dropped to just over 15,000 on May 1st. Some requirements for these adults, ages 18 to 49, mean they must have disabilities to continue getting assistance, or be raising children.
“People are required now to either volunteer or have a part-time job if you’re considered able-bodied,” Wetli said.
But, Wetli said the guidelines are creating a larger human problem.
“In a lot of rural areas especially, people don’t have transportation, there are not jobs available for them, and also very few places that they can go and volunteer,” Wetli explained.
The state’s DHR said they sent out nearly 33,000 notices to people in danger of losing their benefits back in December. The SNAP requirements are not in place in 13 counties due to their high unemployment rates. Those counties are Greene, Hale, Perry, Dallas, Lowndes, Wilcox, Monroe, Conecuh, Clarke, Washington, Choctaw, Sumter, and Barbour.