JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Empower Missouri, a health and welfare public advocacy group, believes that nearly 30,000 Missourians will lose their on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits on April 1.
SB 24, a bill passed via veto override in Sept. 2015 and sponsored by Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, is designed to require those seeking benefits under SNAP or those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) must engage in work activities before receiving such benefits, unless otherwise exempt from engaging in work activities. Those activities include unsubsidized employment, on-the-job training, community service, certain types of vocational or job skills training.
While the bill was designed to fit into a merit-based framework, members of Empower Missouri have cried foul at the law. When a welfare reform bill was passed in Congress in the mid-1990s, it called for a three month window within three years on food stamp payments for childless adults, with the ability for states to provide exceptions to that stipulation in high unemployment areas. SB 24, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2016, forbade the state from seeking that exception, so on April 1, that three month window provided by the federal law will close.
Glenn Koenen, the Hunger Task Force Chair with the organization, believes that provision of SB 24 creates a schism between those who have and those who do not.
“We’ve created a new class of Missourians,” Koenen said in a statement. “We now have legislated that some of our neighbors are too poor to get help from anti-poverty programs.”
Executive Director Jeanette Mott Oxford notes that the law could impact rural areas as well as urban spaces, especially with Noranda, an aluminum smelting facility in Southeast Missouri, filing for bankruptcy and laying off hundreds of workers.
“With Noranda… closing and the loss of almost a thousand jobs there, the ripple effects may be felt in many counties, yet we cannot go to the federal government for added food assistance,” she said.
Koenen adds that food pantries may feel an increased burden with less assistance being given the state.
“Traditionally, pantries supplement food stamps,” he said. “Now we’re asking these pantries to replace the benefits received by 30,000 people – a number greater than the population of Joplin – without any increase in donations.”