SNAP change to take effect in April

SNAP: A Quest card is used at a Guam store. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are spent using the Quest card. The SNAP program's rule change could cut off almost 2,000 on Guam from the program. Post file

For more than two decades, the government of Guam has managed to get an exemption from federal law so that able-bodied adults can continue receiving Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program benefits without having to keep a job.

Starting next month, the rules will be different.

Certain able-bodied adults who don't have disabilities and don't have minor dependents can no longer continue receiving benefits through the program, also known as food stamps, for more than three months within a three-year period.

The change takes effect on Oct. 1.

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services announced Tuesday the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service has disapproved Guam's application to exempt able-bodied adults from the three-month time limit for receiving food stamps.

Food stamp benefits can continue for adults who show proof they work at least 20 hours a week and who have minor dependents, among other conditions.

Able-bodied adults under the program are described as those who are between the ages of 18 and 49, who have no dependents and don't have disabilities.

The work requirement is part of the federal law called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. GovGuam has been asking for exemptions since that time.

States and territories had the option to request a waiver from the time limit if the state – or an area within the state – has an unemployment rate above 10% or does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for the individuals.

Guam's unemployment rate as of March 2018 was 4.4%, but the rate doesn't include anyone of working age who isn't trying to get a job or isn't interested in getting a job. 

When the time limit  was being debated in Congress, then-congressman and a co-author of the provision, John Kasich is quoted as having said, “It is only if you are able-bodied, if you are childless, and if you live in an area where you are getting food stamps and there are jobs available, then it applies.”

Last year, on the same day that President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, and at the direction of President Trump, the secretary of agriculture announced a proposed rule “intended to move more able-bodied recipients of [SNAP] benefits to self-sufficiency through the dignity of work,” according to an April 2019 letter co-written by Guam Attorney General Leevin Camacho and more than 20 other state attorneys general across the nation.

Their letter sought an exemption from the 1996 law and the rule change under the Trump administration.

On Tuesday, the Guam Public Health department announced the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service turned down Guam's waiver request.

The local Public Health hasn't stated how many will be affected.

Adults who want to continue receiving SNAP benefits must do one of the following:

• Work at least 20 hours per week or 80 hours a month;

• Participate in a work program such as the SNAP Guam Employment and Training Program at least 80 hours a month or other educational or training activities; or

• Work at least 20 hours per week in any combination of working and participating in a work program.

The three-month time limit does not apply to people who are:

• under 18 or 50 years old or older;

• medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment;

• responsible for a dependent child in their SNAP household; and

• residing in a household where a household member is under age 18, pregnant or exempt from the SNAP work requirements. 

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