People losing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits

We are going to address a tough issue and we readily concede up front we don’t have all the answers.

We are referencing what appears to be a significant cutback in access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The Associated Press reported in November that some 10,000 people have lost access in Kentucky recently to SNAP benefits, i.e. food stamps. The AP said the cutbacks applied to more than 10,000 low-income Kentucky adults who were removed from a federal program that helps them buy food after they failed to comply with newly reinstated rules requiring them to either get a job or do volunteer work to keep their benefits.

The rules requiring a job or volunteer work actually have been in place for years. Much of Kentucky has in the past received a waiver, but Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration has been allowing many of the waivers to expire, the AP said. All but eight of Kentucky’s 120 counties now have the requirements in place. The exceptions are eight counties in eastern Kentucky that are participating in a federal pilot program.

The rules require adults ages 18 to 49 with no children or disabilities to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week. Adults who don’t show they are meeting the requirements for three consecutive months will lose benefits.

We have to say right up front we agree with these requirements in principle. We think most people do. If you need SNAP benefits and you can work, you should in some form or fashion … For many of our lower paying jobs, feeding a family of four, for example, on an $8 an hour job is close to impossible if one is also responsible for rent, etc. But we do say again that if one needs SNAP benefits, we think getting people into the workforce or volunteering at a local nonprofit whenever possible is obviously a good thing.

Jason Dunn, policy analyst at Kentucky Voices for Health who directed Kentucky’s SNAP program from 2011 to 2017 under the administrations of Bevin and former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, said he suspects the number of people losing their benefits is just starting. Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokesman Doug Hogan said the program has “appropriate exemptions and good cause exceptions for not meeting requirements.”

“No one loses access to SNAP benefits, although some beneficiaries may choose not to comply, or cannot comply because they are already working but not reporting income,” Hogan said.

What we’ve found when it comes to these types of benefits is that the devil is usually in the details. Each case is different. One thing that is a top priority in our view is to avoid the common stereotype that anyone getting SNAP benefits must be a freeloader. … Another concern we have is that many in poverty or struggling in life aren’t civically engaged and may find it very challenging to simply carry out tasks in life that most of us take for granted. So, we would hope that the state is, when it is cutting these benefits, doing some level of diligence in making sure people know the rules and are capable of meeting the requirements before they get cut off.

Philosophically, our belief is that many of our modern day social welfare programs are not sustainable in any way, shape or form. This is a viewpoint based strictly on scratching out numbers. We also believe philosophically that we are each responsible for our own destiny. … However, philosophy and ideology aren’t always compatible with everyday reality, and the reality is a lot of people need these benefits. …

Our view is cutbacks are necessary but they need to be done with both wisdom and compassion whenever possible.

The Daily Independent of Ashland