Advocacy Group Calls for DHS to Apply for SNAP Waiver

Contact: Dana Thomas, Communications Director

(O): 769.230.2841

Advocacy Group Calls for DHS to Apply for SNAP Waiver

The Mississippi Center for Justice’s Public Records Act request reveals potential impact of the

3-month time limit for each county and presents policy solutions to prevent increasing the

distress level of Mississippi’s struggling young adults.

Jackson, Miss. (January 25, 2016) –– Beginning January 1, 2016, 82,500 Mississippians became subject to a 3-month time limit for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps. These individuals are between the ages of 19-49, without dependent children and able-bodied. The rule limits SNAP to 3 months in every 36-month period for these unemployed adults, beginning the month that an individual applies or recertifies for SNAP. Individuals subject to this rule can continue to receive SNAP if they meet a qualifying exemption, including working more than 20 hours per week or meeting a qualifying work activity.

While a federal rule imposes the harsh time limit on Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs), states have the option of applying for a waiver from the rule. Since 2006, Mississippi has been under a statewide waiver.

In 2016, however, a Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) Public Records Act (PRA) request revealed several important findings:

  • The state is eligible for a statewide waiver from the rule, but has opted to leave this critical lifeline on the table, leaving 82,539 struggling Mississippians living in the nation’s most economically depressed counties at risk of losing assistance to purchase food.
  • The state has enough time limit exemptions (15% exemptions) to extend SNAP benefits to thousands of Mississippians in counties with the highest unemployment rates, but the state’s strategy is to apply its banked exemptions to ABAWDs who receive an inadvertent 4th month of food assistance acting as a buffer for quality control errors
  • Notice to applicants occurred in October and November 2015, leaving very limited time for ABAWDs already seeking employment to find work or qualify for other exemptions
  • While the state maintains a list of food banks and food pantries throughout the state, these organizations had not been individually contacted about the time limit as of the time of MCJ’s PRA request
  • The state is not proactively using SNAP Employment & Training grant funds to provide work slots or work activity for ABAWDs exhausting their time limit
  • In 78 of 82 counties, the unemployment rate was higher in 2014 than in 2006 when the state first went under a waiver

The full report can be read here.