SNAP changes put recipients to work

Published 7:00 am Friday, January 22, 2016

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors opened the county doors to citizens receiving food stamps in order for them to contribute to the workforce through community service and allow them to continue to receive benefits under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program.

On Wednesday, board members approved Marvin Houston’s request to allow people receiving SNAP benefits to work in county offices without affecting current employees. Houston is the county director with the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

The board had tabled the matter earlier this month in order to determine if they wanted to enter into that agreement with DHS.

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“Anyone who’s receiving SNAP benefits, using food stamps, between the ages of 18 to 49, will have to be working or placed in some type of community service called workfare unless they meet some type of exemption,” Houston said in an interview in January. “I bring it to the board because the only places we can place people in are non-profits, public or private.”

Examples of non-profit organizations include, churches and county offices.

Houston said the state of Mississippi required SNAP recipients who are able to work to seek employment beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, offers nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families.

Houston said those working community service won’t be paid in wages; rather, they will receive compensation through their household’s monthly SNAP allotment. Recipients have no more than three months of SNAP eligibility within a 36-month period and must complete 80 work hours each month while they’re enrolled in the program.

An estimated 900 able-bodied adults receive SNAP benefits in Pearl River County, Houston said.

Those recipients who don’t find a placement by Jan. 31 will be placed in county offices by DHS.

“The ones that cannot find a place, we’re going to step in and place them somewhere within the community,” Houston said.

SNAP recipients exempt from the work requirements include, anyone younger than 18 or older than 50, anyone responsible for the care of a child or disabled household member, pregnant women, anyone medically certified as physically or mentally unfit and those already exempt from the general SNAP work requirements, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Houston thanked the board for signing the agreement.

“They’re opening up the door for everybody to be placed,” Houston said. “I really appreciate the board deciding to participate and help the residents of Pearl River County.”

The board has the power to terminate the agreement at anytime, Houston said.