BY MELANIE BUCK –
The state of Arkansas has sent out their third and final notice to 12,000 Arkansans, announcing the last month to receive their benefits will be March 2016. In January of this year, DHS confirmed with The Pulse that Polk County had 1,647 SNAP cases representing 3,780 persons. The letters were sent to ‘able bodied adults’ that currently receive SNAP benefits, or rather food stamps, as the program is most commonly known. The targets of the system are ages 18 – 49 years of age who are considered physically able to work and have no dependents. Nearly two dozen states across the nation are implementing the same program, called SNAP Limits.
The state has honored waivers that allowed able-bodied recipients to collect the benefits without having a job and the Department of Human Services has announced they will no longer honor those waivers without the recipient being employed. The decision comes after a rise in the economy and the number of jobs available. The letters to recipients were first sent out in December and again in January before the final notice was mailed in early March. The letters told clients that March would be the last month they receive benefits.
Some food pantries across the state have expressed concern about the dismissal of the program and feel the weight of feeding the hungry will shift to them instead. The state hopes to counterbalance the decision with SNAP employment training programs to help recipients get on their feet and provide a viable living for themselves.
If you find yourself to be one of the recipients losing benefits, there are many programs in Polk County that can assist citizens in obtaining self sufficiency. Contact your local DHS worker and ask about available programs. Also, the Salvation Army can point citizens to proper programs. There are many local food pantries available as well.