By Mary Kuhlman
About 50,000 Hoosiers could lose food assistance in the next few months if they do not meet work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
A federal waiver that allowed adults without dependents to forgo work requirements during the recession is expiring.
Terry Mayo, SNAP outreach coordinator with Indiana 211, says in order to get enrolled and into compliance, recipients must have an in-person assessment.
"It's crucial they be in contact with IMPACT so that they can work with them," she says. "They want to keep them from getting their benefits discontinued, so they want to make sure that they're plugging in and it's documented they're plugged into what they're supposed to be."
Indiana Manpower and Comprehensive Training (IMPACT) provides education, training, job search and placement to help SNAP recipients get back on their feet.
The change affects those on food assistance between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not receiving disability benefits and do not have children. Appointment notices were sent in the mail, and recipients need to call the Family and Social Services Administration for missed appointments.
According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the state's unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in July, the lowest it has been since before the recession. But Jessica Fraser, program manager with the Indiana Institute for Working Families, says there are still many residents without work or in low-wage jobs who need help making ends meet.
"They can't find good jobs that pull them up out of this problem," she says. "The fact that SNAP provides employment and training opportunities is an opportunity for these folks to go in there, get these appointments, get assessed and maybe get on a training plan that could lead to self-sufficiency."
The work requirements for SNAP include opportunities through the Community Work Experience Program, which places clients into unpaid jobs or volunteer opportunities. Fraser says this allows participants to gain work experience and employment skills.