SNAP time limits take effect

As the U.S. economy improves, some states are putting time limits on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

SNAP (sometimes still referred to as food stamps) is one of the few resources that very poor single adults have to meet their basic needs. The program provides an electronic benefit card which enables participants to purchase food. For people experiencing a housing crisis or homelessness, this not only prevents them from experiencing hunger, but it can also make it more likely that extended family or friends will be willing to accept them into their home as they have some resources to meet their own needs and contribute to household expenses.

Some states are no longer seeking waivers from SNAP time limits as required under the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the legislation that also imposed time limits on welfare assistance to low-income families.

Starting in 2016 single, “able-bodied” adults age 18-49 without dependents will be limited in some states to receiving SNAP benefits for 3 months in any 36-month period.

The time limit will be in effect in more than 40 states, and in 22 of those it will be the first time since before the recession.

This limitation does not apply to individuals who are working at least 20 hours a week or more, have a disability, or are enrolled in job training or community service activity. Individuals who are chronically homeless are also exempt. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests people who lose access to SNAP after three months to contact local food banks for assistance as needed.

More detailed information on SNAP benefits is available from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. CLASP and the National Disability Institute have also posted a webinar on the policy change for people with disabilities.