FARMINGTON, MO (KDKZ-TV) As Congress considers a farm bill that imposes stricter requirements on people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, those who say they are simply trying to get back on their feet claim the changes will make things worse for families experiencing hunger.
According to data from the Missouri Budget Project, one in eight Missourians benefit from SNAP – formerly Food Stamps – which is authorized through the farm bill.
Jefferson City resident Amy Rogers says SNAP helped her get back on her feet after a series of unfortunate events resulting in her losing her job and ability to support her family. She says even with degrees in computer information systems and a foreign language, it takes time to find work.
“With no work, I have to do SNAP, and without SNAP, I have no food,” says Rogers. “The legislators there in Washington, they need to take a really hard look at just exactly who is on SNAP, case by case basis.”
Those in support of stricter work requirements claim it targets people who make a life out of living on public assistance. Others say that view is shortsighted considering people such as Rogers and the nearly 500,000 Missourians living in hunger.
The issue of public assistance has long been controversial and partisan in Washington.
Jeanette Mott Oxford is the executive director of Empower Missouri, which advocates for the well-being of all Missourians. She says data shows the people who are on SNAP are either low-income or simply unable to secure basic needs such as food and shelter. In addition to the working poor, Oxford says that many SNAP recipients face other challenges.
“Most people on SNAP are either senior citizens who have had a long, decades-long history of working or people with disabilities who may may work to the best of their abilities but perhaps cannot work full-time because of the mental or physical health challenges that they have,” says Oxford.
Under the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill proposal, adults age 18 through 59 who are not disabled or raising a child younger than 6 would be required to prove they have worked at least 20 hours per week. If they fail to meet the new requirements, they would face a “sanction” resulting in the loss of their SNAP assistance for a full 12 months.
Oxford says the changes would cost the state millions more money to implement while putting families at risk of losing access to nutritional food.