NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – An estimated 150,000 Tennesseans could lose food stamp benefits on April 1 if they don’t meet work requirements.
Tennessee Department of Human Services spokeswoman Stephanie Jarnagin says the agency began sending out notices earlier this winter to people who could lose benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The program requires able-bodied adults ages 18 through 49 who have no children or other dependents at home to work, volunteer or attend education or job-training courses at least 80 hours a month. If they don’t, their benefits are cut off after three months.
The work requirement was waived during the recession but the waiver ended in at least 21 states, including Tennessee, on Jan. 1. That triggered the three-month limit for recipients to comply with work requirements.
In Tennessee, Terry Work said her 27-year-old deaf son recently was denied disability payments, meaning he is considered able-bodied. And that means he stands to lose his food stamps, even though she said her son has trouble keeping a job because of his deafness.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of people in the county hurt by this,” said Work, founder of Helping Hands of Hickman County, a social service agency in a community about an hour west of Nashville.
Nationwide, some 4.7 million food stamp recipients are deemed able-bodied adults without dependents, according to USDA. Only 1 in 4 has any income from a job. They receive an average of $164 a month from the program.
In states that already have implemented the work requirements, many recipients have ended up losing their benefits.
Wisconsin began phasing in work requirements last spring. Of the 22,500 able-bodied adults who became subject to the change between April and June, two-thirds were dropped from the rolls three months later for failing to meet the requirements.
Some states could have applied for partial waivers but chose not to do so.