Tribal, state leaders share mixed views on impending SNAP benefits

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Pixabay / MGN(KALB)
Published: Dec. 11, 2019 at 9:52 PM CST
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There will be new protocols for food stamp recipients beginning in April 2020.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and federal leaders announced new rules to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Part of it is influenced by an unemployment rate of 3.5%.

“Today’s jobs report is further proof that now in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work," said Secretary Perdue. "To that end, 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,” he added.

South Dakota has seen a steady decline in the number of people receiving SNAP benefits over the past few years. Between 2017 and 2019, more than three thousand people no longer utilize it.

Per federal regulation, SNAP benefits are limited to three months within a three year period for able-bodied adults without dependents unless they meet work requirements. These SNAP recipients must be working- or in approved training or other work activities of at least 80 hours per month in order to receive SNAP benefits beyond three months.

There are instances where states may request a waiver of the three-month time limit for areas with higher than average unemployment rates. For South Dakota, those waivers are limited to reservation areas.

Staff from the Department of Social Services say there will not be a large number of recipients impacted by the new standards, unlike other states.

KSFY News asked Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney Bordeaux how this would affect Indian reservations. He said the work requirement is unrealistic given the lack of jobs on reservations.

"A shotgun approach or one size fits all approach is putting the cart before the horse. The Trump administration needs to not only consult with tribes, but they must learn what the impacts can have on our membership and others living on tribal lands," President Bordeaux said.

If there are difficulties in April of next year when this change occurs, food banks and pantries across the state are hoping they will not have to sustain a new level of demand.

"I think any time you've taken somebody off a program like SNAP, there's always that possibility that these people's needs aren't going to be met," said Feeding South Dakota CEO Matt Gassen.