Food Stamp Cutoff Charities, Welfare Officials Brace for Flood of Hungry

Article excerpt

A new provision of the federal welfare law that cuts off food stamps for able-bodied people who aren't working has soup kitchens and government officials around the country bracing for an onslaught of hungry people eager for a meal.

State welfare offices began notifying recipients that, effective last Friday, they have 90 days to find a job or face losing their food stamps for three years.

This provision of the new law is expected to affect 1 million people and represents the largest cut in the 35-year history of the food stamp program. It is also key to the financial success of the welfare overhaul, because this and other cuts in the food stamp program make up half the projected savings in the welfare law. The new rules strip adults without dependents from the food stamp rolls after three months unless they go to work at least part time. Congressional Republicans who drafted this provision say it is designed to ensure that people who can work do, noting that the law excludes areas with high unemployment. But social-service agencies and others involved with hunger say most people receiving food stamps are already looking for work and unable to find it. "This will create a whole new class of people who are ineligible for food stamps mainly because they are unemployed and unable to find jobs in a very harsh and improper time frame," said Robert J. Fersh, president of the Food Research and Action Center. Charitable groups such as Bread for the City, one of the largest food pantries in the District of Columbia, are scrambling to cope with what they fear will be a heavy increase in needy, hungry people this winter. "When these people fall off the rolls, we will have to redouble or requadruple our commitment" to help, said George Jones, the nonprofit group's executive director. The food stamp provision, added to the welfare bill at the last minute, is the brainchild of two Ohio Congressmen, Republicans John Kasich and Robert W. Ney. Just as with the welfare law generally, their aim is to make sure that only those who really need help get it and that everyone else should work for what they receive. …

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