Nearly 41,000 Missouri residents have lost their access to food stamps after a new state law went into effect which reduces the length of time recipients are eligible for assistance.
The law reinstated a controversial 1996 welfare law that limited access to food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults to only three months out of every three years, unless they worked a minimum of 20 hours a week or attended an approved job training program, reports Ozarks First. After the recession of 2007, however, many areas had waived these mandates due to the high rates of unemployment across the nation.
“The legislators believe that around five dollars a day in food stamps was enough to keep people from looking for work — which we maintain was absolute craziness,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford of the Empower Missouri social welfare group, according to Ozarks First.
The law also added restrictions to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, reducing the maximum allowed time from 60 months in a lifetime to 45 months, disqualifying approximately 19,000 children in the state from the temporary benefits.
With the economy improved by 2016, 21 states declined to renew the waivers in some or all regions, causing an estimated one million Americans to lose their food stamp benefits, notes the Chicago Tribune. In many places, the work requirements returned at the beginning of the year, meaning that most of those who lost their benefits did so on April 1.
Some states declined to renew the waivers, even in areas where unemployment remained high, such as Mississippi, where 6.5 percent of people are unemployed, which is one of the highest rates in the nation.
“We want people to go to work in Mississippi,” the state’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement, according to the Tribune. “We want these individuals to get a good job and live the American dream, not just be dependent on the federal government.”
But opponents to the requirements in states like Mississippi and Missouri say that some people genuinely need the assistance, such as women escaping from domestic violence situations, notes Ozarks First. Mott Oxford said that up to 60 percent of women receiving welfare are victims of domestic violence.