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Officials: Changes to SNAP could affect thousands statewide

About 70,000 to 80,000 people statewide could be affected by a new Supplemental Nutrition program work regulation which takes affect in April, said Amy Hill, director of community engagement and advocacy for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

“We expect a fair number of them would be affected in our area,” Hill said, speaking about the 27-county area served by the food bank.

Under the current regulations, able-bodied people between the ages of 18 and 49 can receive three months of SNAP benefits if they maintain the 20-hour work requirement. At present, states can waive this requirement if the economic situation in an area does not support that. The new rule would do away with the ability of a community to apply for waivers.

The work requirements have been in place for many years but the way the program had been administered, it allowed states, based on their own economic situations to liberally apply for a waiver of these requirements,” Hill said.

“It’s unreasonable for people to be expected to meet these requirements in certain communities, because of the education level, or because of transportation issues or other barriers people might be experiencing that make it difficult to participate in the new jobs and growing economy,” she added.

Elderly residents would not be affected by the new rule because it is specifically aimed at able-bodied adults without dependents.

“It’s supposed to be single individuals who do not have any disabilities, do not have any other sort of restrictions or barriers to working. They could work if they have jobs available to suit them,” she said.

One problem with the new regulation that Hill cited is that there are many people in this category who already have jobs, but their jobs do not given them enough hours to meet the job requirements.

“If your employer is only giving you shifts that add up to 15 hours per week, you could lose your benefits,” she said.

“With many, many of our clients, with people who have jobs, it often is not enough to get to the end of the month, so to take away extra support could put them in a particularly difficult hardship,” Hill noted.

“What it boils down to is having the most local community being able to say here’s what our needs are here. It’s kind of a nuance, but it could have the affect of being harmful to many people,” she added.

Hill noted that part of the new requirement is not specifically that someone gets active employment with a paycheck. They could possible be enrolled in some type of job training program or an educational endeavor that is helping them to become more marketable in the employment field. Volunteering a certain number of hours could also satisfy the work requirement. She said that it is important that people understand that fact.

“We need to do more to make sure that is getting out to the people who need it,” she stressed.

“We exist, the food bank and all of our partner agencies, to be that emergency provider of food assistance when needed. We can’t just pick up all the slack if the SNAP program were to go away, it would be a huge problem, but we are certainly going to do whatever we can to make sure that people have what they need in this current situation,” she added.

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank has been named the best charity in the state to donate to for 2019 by Business.org., according to a release from the group.

The group of small-business advocates, using data collected by Charity Navigator, rated charities throughout the country, state by state, based on which ones do the most with their donations.

Top organizations averaged a rate of 94.9 percent for contributions that go directly back into their programs, the report from Business.org noted. The local food bank received a ranking of a 96.02 percent.

“We work very hard not just to support the community with our mission of ending food insecurity, but also to run the kind of organization that is worth supporting, so we take care to be good stewards of peoples’ donations and to be good stewards of the faith that people have entrusted to us to do this work,” said Hill.

“It’s amazing to me that every staff person at every level really takes care to do things as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible. We just have this ability, to take those donations and maximize their impact,” she said.

Hill noted that every dollar that’s donated to the food bank is turned into six meals for people in need. She added that 96.6 percent of the food banks revenue goes into programs.

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