A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

10,000 Kentuckians face new struggle to provide for families as SNAP benefits work requirements begin

Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service

Putting food on the table has become a much bigger struggle this year for tens of thousands of Kentuckians.

The state began reinstating work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on a county-by-county basis back in February.

And since May, new data shows one-in-five people subject to the requirement have since lost SNAP assistance.

More than 54,000 Kentucky adults are subject to work requirements to receive SNAP food benefits. (Photo from Polycart/ via Flickr)

Dustin Pugel, a policy analyst for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, explains that’s 10,000 people, many of whom live in communities with insufficient job opportunities.

“There are still parts of the state that have not recovered from the Great Recession or have always been economically behind and so expecting folks in those parts of the state to go out and find a job when there are no jobs available to them just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he states.

Kentucky sets a three month limit on how long adults without a disability or dependents can receive SNAP assistance without working 20 hours per week on average.

More than 54,000 adults in 112 counties are now subject to this requirement.

Jason Dunn, a policy analyst with Kentucky Voices for Health who helped crunch the numbers, says increased food insecurity could result in poor health outcomes.

And he says the data also raises concerns about the impact of the state’s waiver program for Medicaid, which is currently blocked by a legal challenge.

“These are the same processes and systems that Medicaid recipients would be using,” he points out. “So we think the experience that we see with a statewide program for SNAP would be a good predictor for what might happen if that waiver is ultimately approved for Medicaid.”

Pugel notes that there is very little evidence that work requirements for public assistance programs like SNAP will produce better work outcomes.

“People who have to adhere to a work requirement often don’t end up with any better employment than other people who are like them,” he points out. “It doesn’t reduce poverty and there’s some evidence that it could increase extreme poverty.”

From May to September, SNAP participation fell anywhere between 47 percent in Marion County and 4.7 percent in Owsley County.

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