MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tighter restrictions are coming soon for hundreds of thousands of food stamp recipients across the country, but much of the Mid-South could avoid that anxiety.
The Trump Administration announced plans this week to crack down on work requirements for those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Wednesday U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a final rule to move more able-bodied recipients of SNAP to what the administration calls “self-sufficiency into employment.”
“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream. We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand,” Secretary Perdue said in a press release.
The USDA rule affects people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled.
Currently able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) can receive three months of benefits within a 36-month period unless they work 80 hours per month or participate in certain job training activities.
However, states have been able to create waivers for areas that face high-unemployment.
The new rule would limit states from waiving those standards, instead restricting their use to areas that have 6% unemployment rate or higher.
In the State of Tennessee, there are currently seven counties that are under the waiver for able-bodied adults without dependents.
Of those counties, McNairy and Lauderdale counties are in the WMC Action News 5 viewing area.
The waiver removes the requirement for ABAWD SNAP recipients to meet the work, education and volunteer qualifications.
Waiver counties are mainly rural and labeled distressed based on criteria including poverty rate, labor surplus and unemployment rate.
Cathy Pope, President and CEO of the Mid-South Food Bank, says this means there's more responsibility to get food into those counties.
"Our game plan is to get the message out, and this community is so generous when we make a call out that we need food, that we need canned items, we need non-perishable goods. Folks meet that need,” Pope said.
The USDA says this new requirement would save the government $5.5 billion over five years.
The new rule would take effect April 1.