Restricting access to food will harm low-income individuals in our state.
Project Bread strongly opposes the proposed USDA rule on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work requirements, which will harm many of the most vulnerable SNAP recipients. Food is a basic right for all people, regardless of employment status.
Under current SNAP rules, in areas of high unemployment or limited job opportunities, states have the ability to waive requirements that certain adults work or be enrolled in job training programs for at least 20 hours per week in order to continue receiving SNAP benefits. These adults are known as Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs), but this term does NOT fully describe these individuals. "ABAWDs" are veterans, the homeless, those re-entering the workforce after incarceration, caretakers, recent high school graduates seeking a job, former foster care youth, individuals with undiagnosed mental illness, and other adults who want to work, but are unemployed or underemployed. These are our neighbors, friends, and family and like everyone else they deserve reliable access to affordable, healthy food.
The proposed changes would cause serious harm to over 755,000 unemployed and underemployed adults across the country who receive SNAP under the current rules— over 18,000 in Massachusetts alone. Under the proposed rule, it is likely that none of the 62 cities and town that received a waiver in 2018 would be eligible in the future despite job shortages or local unemployment rates.
Provincetown on Cape Cod experienced a seasonal swing in monthly unemployment of 20.8 percentage points in 2018. Without the waiver, workers will face the challenge of hunger in winter months while waiting for tourists and jobs to return. Similarly, Fall River and New Bedford rely heavily on commercial fishing. A harsh or long winter means fewer jobs and greater food insecurity even for those able and willing to work. In rural northern Berkshire County, even when jobs are available, they may be unattainable due to expensive childcare and lack of affordable transportation. Not having regular access to a car should not lead to hunger. Under this rule, unfortunately for many it will.
We urge the administration to reject this proposal.
Due to a technical error, the USDA is re-opening the comment period between on April 8th until April 10th.
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