New work requirements for SNAP benefits included in federal debt deal

Changes to benefits in the proposed legislation are worrying some central Virginians.
New work requirements for SNAP benefits are included in the federal debt deal.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 7:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Capitol Hill, the Senate must hurry to pass legislation that would raise the borrowing limit and cap government spending.

They have only four days to avoid a default crisis, but lawmakers on both sides are calling for amendments to the budget deal, threatening to hold up the process.

One part of the deal impacts who qualifies for food stamps and other kinds of government assistance. It’s a change worrying some Central Virginians.

Every day, workers at Henrico Community Food Bank do what they can to ensure people have a meal.

“Ever since the SNAP benefits did roll back to pre-covid levels, we have seen an increase in clients,” said Sudeshna Das-Menezes, Henrico Community Food Bank Executive Director.

Das-Menezes says that from January to March, the number of people they serve has doubled and that they are sometimes visiting five to 10 households a day to respond to calls.

With changes to the debt ceiling, inflation and summer quickly approaching, Das-Menezes says the food bank knows the number of people needing help will only rise.

“Let’s make sure we have full pantries, and also, summer is typically a very, very hard time.” Das-Menezes said. “Everyone is thinking about school ending, it’s vacation time, but summer is also a time where hunger peaks, and it’s doubly important for an organization like ours to have that full pantry.”

According to the bipartisan debt ceiling bill, current law requires able-bodied people ages 18 to 49 without dependents to work or attend training programs for at least 80 hours per month if they want SNAP or food stamp benefits.

The debt ceiling compromise would raise that age requirement to 54 over five years, meaning you’d have to work longer to keep the benefits.

The proposal also removes the work requirement for veterans and homeless adults.

The Chesterfield Food Bank Outreach Center is also seeing a demand, and their executive director says if change doesn’t happen soon, they will see growing lines at food distribution centers.

Das-Menezes says that if you do lose your assistance for any reason, they’re here to help.

“Regardless of what your situation is, if you need food assistance, honestly, all you need to do is just give us a call,” Das-Menezes said.

Das-Menezes said the community distribution will be held at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center on Saturday, June 3, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is open to all Henrico residents.