Debt Ceiling Deal Brings Changes to Local Food Assistance

New work requirements to be phased in from the Fiscal Responsibility Act for individuals receiving help via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

According to a Maryland Matters article, the new US debt ceiling bill, also known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act, will bring changes to work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federally funded food assistance program. An NPR piece went on to call the changes some of the most significant in decades. A Republican effort to tighten eligibility requirements for social assistance programs saw some success with the SNAP adjustments, while both sides saw the benefits of a few new work exceptions.

Previous SNAP provisions required able adults, 18-49 years of age without dependents to show they were enrolled in a job training program or worked for at least 80 hours a month in order to receive assistance. This rule is now extended to individuals up to the age 54. While millions more able-bodied adults must meet new eligibility requirements, exemptions to the requirement were added for veterans, homeless persons, or an individual under 24 and aging out of foster care.

These changes will now be phased in over the next 18 months. Adults aged 50-52 will have to abide by the new rules this fall starting in October. Those 53-54 will have to adhere to new standards by the Fall of 2024. All told, the recent amendments will sunset in 2030 and revert back to the previous standard.

Currently SNAP benefits are provided in every county through the local social services and human services programs. These changes to the program come at a time when Maryland counties are making extra efforts to combat food insecurity during and, now, in the wake of the pandemic. Addressing food deserts, food costs, food access equity, and more are at the forefront as the country emerges from COVID-19.

Read the full Maryland Matters article.

Read the full National Public Radio Article.