COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Sept. 1, the Department of Social Services (DSS) will have new screening requirements. The department said SNAP recipients ages 18 to 50 who don't work or volunteer 20 hours a week could lose benefits.
"We should be making it easier because starving someone isn't going to make a job easier to come by. It's just gonna make them starve," Sue Berkowitz, with S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice, said.
New changes for SNAP benefits include SNAP benefit recipients ages 18 to 50 who are identified as able-bodied adults without dependents.
"So, in the eyes of the federal government, this is someone who is able-bodied, meaning they can work, they can do some kind of outside employment or qualified volunteer work, but they don't have dependents," Connelly-Anne Ragely with DSS said.
This group of people must now meet employment requirements to get benefits.
A person considered able-bodied without a kid must work 20 hours a week or 80 hours a month. Otherwise, their benefits will be limited to three months.
"Within a three-month period, will be prohibited from applying for SNAP assistance for 36 months," Ragely said.
The federal government set these standards through the Fiscal Responsibility Act signed by President Biden earlier this year.
According to DSS, 29,000 people in South Carolina fit into this category and will be screened starting Sept. 1. Advocates for those with low incomes said it impacts thousands of people negatively.
"And it's really going to hurt a lot of our rural areas. It's going to hurt our poor counties because folks are not going to be able to find work. The other thing folks can do if they can't find work is they can do community service," Berkowitz said.
But even with an opportunity to volunteer, nonprofit organizations may not be able to support that many people in need of employment or volunteer opportunities.
"There's this belief that there are all these nonprofits out there that can absorb tens of thousands of people to do community service. But our nonprofits don't have that ability to absorb," Berkowitz said.
DSS said there would be exemptions for veterans, pregnant women and others.
The complete list of exemptions includes the following people:
- People medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment;
- Those living in a SNAP household with a minor;
- Women who are pregnant;
- People who are 24 or younger and aged out of foster care.
The changes will apply to people ages 51 and 52 starting Oct. 1.