Thousands of people in Oregon are set to lose their food stamp benefits next year after limits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, take effect.
Normally, people without children or dependents who qualify for SNAP benefits are given a three-month limit, but the federal government waives the limit in areas of high unemployment. The Oregon counties of Multnomah and Washington used to be areas where that qualified for the limit exemption, but not anymore. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, unemployment there has decreased and now SNAP benefits will be reduced.
Advocates for the poor argue that the SNAP reduction will have a adverse effects on the people who are in need of assistance, especially those who have been looking for work.
Matt Newell-Ching, the public affairs director with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, told OPB: “If you are long-term unemployed it is particularly difficult to find work. If you’re in the hiring pool and an employer is deciding between somebody who is currently in the workforce versus somebody who has not had a job for a while, it’s less likely that you’re going to get the job if you have been unemployed for a long time.
Newell-Ching added: “So this policy is going to disproportionately hurt people who have been looking for work for a long time.”
According to the Portland Mercury, many of the people who will lose their SNAP benefits have an average income of merely 19 percent of the federal poverty line, which comes out to about $2,000 per year.
Belit Burke, the SNAP and Youth Services Programs Manager at Oregon's Department of Human Services, told the Portland Mercury that many of the people affected by the change are homeless, which adds another problem: They might not get word of the change until it happens,
"Everybody is pretty concerned because we want to keep people informed of their rights and let them know how to keep their SNAP benefits if they want to," Burke told the Portland Mercury. "We're working with advocate groups and food banks to do outreach to let people know about the changes."