An estimated 30,000 Marylanders are facing new SNAP time limits on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known as the Food Supplement Program in Maryland). SB 513 would force every jurisdiction in the state to limit some food stamp recipients to only receiving food stamps for three months in a three-year period. If passed, this law would mean additional hunger and poverty for our state.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, otherwise known as welfare reform, imposed time limits on Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) — individuals between the ages of 18–49, who do not live with disabilities and do not have dependents under the age of 18 in their household — who receive SNAP benefits.
Under welfare reform, waivers on time limits for SNAP benefits have been permitted in areas with high unemployment and areas where there simply aren’t enough jobs. These waivers have been utilized by state governments across the country, and have proven a vital protection for those who struggle with the combined challenges of hunger and unemployment. As the Great Recession has receded, the number of waivers has decreased, and Maryland, like many other states, no longer has a statewide waiver.
Yet, even as the economy has improved, we know that it has not improved for everyone, nor has it improved in every jurisdiction. The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) examined all of the available economic data, including unemployment and labor surplus area statistics, and applied for waivers for those parts of the state deemed eligible under the rules — areas with high unemployment and jurisdictions where there simply are not enough jobs for those who need them. Those waivers were approved by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Under SB 513, 11 jurisdictions would be subject to the time limits, and thousands of Marylanders would face the possibility of losing their SNAP benefits, regardless of how hard they are working or looking for work. Maryland Hunger Solutions is working with DHS to conduct appropriate outreach to those communities which will be impacted by time limits on SNAP benefits, including Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Calvert County, Carroll County, Charles County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, St. Mary’s County, and Washington County. This includes conducting intensive grassroots outreach to direct service providers serving the homeless, those with disabilities, survivors of domestic violence, and SNAP participants. We’ve also done extensive outreach to other anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates, local elected officials, and state human resources and job training offices. We are hopeful that the number of people who may be impacted will be far fewer as a result of these significant outreach and education efforts.
Let us be clear — SB 513 does not assist the state with outreach, education, or connections to employment and training. It simply says that the state of Maryland should not utilize the waivers available under federal law and should force every Marylander in every jurisdiction to impose undue burdens on their residents, irrespective of the level of unemployment or economic hardship. In short, SB 513 would severely limit the state’s authority to make appropriate determinations that safeguard the economic and nutritional well-being of our poorest residents.
The appropriate use of waivers should be combined with the use of legitimate exemptions and robust employment and training programs to move people from assistance to self-sufficiency.