MN Hunger Relief Leader: SNAP Threats Off Mark
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Whether it's the recent debt ceiling negotiations or the Farm Bill debate, a key federal food assistance program is again at the mercy of budget haggling. Minnesota hunger-fighting groups say some of the rhetoric is short-sighted.
House Republicans have pushed for expanding work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - formerly known as food stamps - arguing it would incentivize more recipients to work.
But Colleen Moriarty, executive director of the group Hunger Solutions, said she feels that would actually do the opposite. She said food insecurity would instantly become a huge barrier in job search efforts.
"It's like if you want someone to work and you cut off their access to public transportation to get to a job, then they can't get there," said Moriarty. "If they don't have any food, they're hungry, they can't concentrate on what it is they're doing."
A tentative debt-ceiling deal was reached over the weekend, and it does include some expanded work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents, but there are also now exemptions for Veterans and those experiencing homelessness.
In combating longstanding misconceptions, Moriarty said it's important to remember these benefits are not a "cure-all" for low-income individuals, but a temporary source to help close hunger gaps when people are in their greatest moment of need.
Research has shown most SNAP recipients are part of the labor force, but often deal with interruptions, such as health issues, in maintaining stable employment.
Moriarty said limiting any aspect of SNAP benefits comes at the worst time for those struggling to get by.
Her group recently noted food shelves in Minnesota saw nearly two million more visits last year. And most pandemic aid has ended, which especially impacts older residents.
"Just recently, when we lifted the emergency status and SNAP went back to the previous levels, what we've seen is just a dramatic effect on seniors," said Moriarty. "Their benefits have rolled back now to $23 a month. You know, they're scared."
This past session, the Minnesota Legislature approved $5 million in emergency food shelf aid. But Moriarty warned that if some locations still can't meet demand and SNAP benefits are limited, those in need might not have anywhere to turn to.
Meanwhile, Congress is expected to vote this week on the updated SNAP provisions.
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