Approximately 18,300 Indiana residents have lost their food stamps benefits this month after the state enacted a work or education requirement.
The state notified nearly 48,000 Hoosiers in May that they needed to spend 20 hours a week working or taking classes in order to continue receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Journal Gazette reports. There is also a volunteer option with certain certified groups.
“Ultimately, the individual is going to have to get a job,” said David Smalley, head of Indiana’s SNAP program, according to the Journal Gazette.
It imposes the mandatory work hours on able-bodied adults without children between the ages of 18 and 49.
The requirement went into effect in July. Recipients become ineligible after three months of non-compliance, so the 18,333 people lost their benefits at the beginning of November.
“We’ve really worked to be proactive,” said Marni Lemons, spokesman for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. “There is some misinformation out there that we are taking food away from kids who are going hungry.”
During the recession, Indiana and most other states waived SNAP work requirements, but due to the state's decreasing unemployment numbers, it did not request a new waiver, NOLA reports.
Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming have joined Indiana in not requesting the work requirement waiver this year.
After the state first notified 48,000 recipients of the work requirement, each person had an orientation appointment with the Indiana Manpower Placement and Comprehensive Training (IMPACT) program to help them find work, the Journal Gazette reports.
Jim Morris, the director of IMPACT, said that only 13.6 percent showed up for their appointments, which is actually above the national rate of 12 percent.
“It shocks me,” Morris said. “If I’m getting a benefit I’m going. No questions asked.”
IMPACT tracked down no-shows to try and reschedule, although Morris pointed out that there are many reasons that a person might not show up. Some recipients had recent changes in eligibility, such as finding a long term job or having children the state didn't know about.