A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Changes to SNAP program leave thousand of Kentuckians struggling with food access


By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Thousands of Kentuckians classified as able-bodied adults without dependents are losing Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP benefits, according to a new report.

Researchers at the Urban Institute found at least 13,122 Kentuckians lost food assistance between January 2017 and September 2018, after the state put back into place a rule limiting SNAP benefits to three months unless individuals meet certain work requirements.

Lauran Hardin, a nurse living in Maysville, has a family member who has bipolar schizoaffective disorder and lost his SNAP benefits.

Between January 2017 and September 2018, about 13,000 Kentuckians lost SNAP food benefits because they reached the three-month time limit. (Photo from @cfrincon/Twenty20, via PNS)

“He couldn’t work at a regular job from his illness, the stress and the external stimuli is too much,” she relates. “So to actually find a job you can do, that has that kind of criteria or that kind of supportive environment, is almost non-existent.”

Hardin says because her family member was, in eyes of the state, an able-bodied adult without dependents, he was denied food assistance.

Hardin says the classification does not account for people like her relative who have mental health issues or other impairments that make it difficult to work but who do not have children or receive federal disability benefits.

“He was dropped off of SNAP, and you can’t get it back,” she states. “Like, it takes a waiting period before you can get it back. So it was a three-month waiting period.”

Federal rules require able-bodied adults without dependents to work 80 hours per month if they receive SNAP benefits for more than three months in a three-year period.

However, the work-related limits were waived until 2017, when Kentucky reinstated them for most counties.

Jon Tew, a senior program manager for policy and advocacy with the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, says losing SNAP means losing access to food, and food insecurity leads to bad health outcomes.

“What we see as a direct effect of this, is, patients of ours who are making progress are going to stop making progress,” he states. “Patients that would otherwise make progress aren’t going to. I mean, this is negative health effects – both physical and mental health – are going to be a result of this.”

The federal government has proposed changing a rule that allows states to waive SNAP work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents in areas with levels of high poverty or unemployment.

According to Kentucky Voices for Health, there are more than 500,00 individuals and more than 250,000 households in Kentucky currently receiving SNAP benefits.


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