Changes to SNAP benefits

Published: Jan. 5, 2018 at 11:50 PM EST
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Friday, Jan. 5, 2018

(News 12 at 11)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT)-- For nearly a decade here in Georgia, qualifications for food stamps did not directly depend on your job status.

But now, people must do one of two things to stay eligible for SNAP and EBT benefits: get a job or prepare to get a job.

Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD), as defined by federal government, are those who are affected by the recent changes. ABAWD must be employed or join a job readiness program in order to keep their benefits beyond three months. If a person enrolls in the SNAP benefits program but neither lands a job nor takes job readiness within the first three months, they become SNAP ineligible for three years.

“You got to look at the training. That’s why job readiness is important and the skills,” said Christine Bruce, who is currently enrolled in a job ready program. She explained she focuses on the skills she’s gained and not the stigma of needing government assistance.

Director of Communications for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services Walter Jones says this job program was in place when SNAP and EBT first started in 1996. Jones says after Obama took office, counties with high unemployment rates could get a waiver. It would exempt their food stamp program from requiring ABAWD to be in job readiness or have a job.

“Yes, it can [be hard] because all positions are filled and maybe you need to have another option in skills.” Bruce added, “It’s hard when you don’t have a resume.”

Only once a county’s unemployment rates are down does the waiver expire. That’s the current case for many counties in the CSRA. The director says, employment rates are much higher now in Augusta—in 93 out of 159 counties in Georgia.

The job program is meant to help, not make it harder on people. Director Jones told News 12 it’s only meant to be a good thing.

And if you ask Christine Bruce, being in a program that leads you to a job, builds positive self-esteem.

“I feel like confidence is the main important thing. It builds up your confidence,” she explained. “You have confidence that maybe you will not fall two hundred dollars behind on your rent.”