Hundreds of county residents may lose access to food stamps due to new rule

Several hundred San Juan County residents may lose access to food stamps after a new rule was announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The changes are set to take effect in April 2020.

According to the USDA, the new rule is designed “to help move more able-bodied recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) towards self-sufficiency and into employment.”

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform instituting the current work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents.  

The change will have a significant impact on many residents of San Juan County. San Juan was the only county in Utah that had been exempt from prior iterations of the ruling. Areas of extreme unemployment were exempt from the requirements.

Advocates argue that the new rule is unnecessarily harsh and will impact people with limited opportunities for employment.

The final rule of the U.S. Department of Agriculture promotes work for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents.  

It does not apply to children and their parents, those over 50 years old including the elderly, those with a disability, or pregnant women. 

The statute limits these adults to three months of benefits in a three-year period – unless they work or participate in work training for at least 20 hours per week.

While announcing the rule, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “The USDA is laying the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.

“With a booming economy that has more jobs than workers to fill them and matches the lowest unemployment rate since 1969, now is the time for every work-capable Americans to find employment.”

Perdue said the number of Americans receiving SNAP benefits in 2000 was just over 17 million. In 2019, during the longest economic expansion in history, the number of Americans receiving SNAP is over 36 million. 


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