Changes in federal and state welfare laws are expected to cut off food stamps benefits for nearly 30,000 Missourians on April 1. Jeanette Mott Oxford with social welfare advocacy organization Empower Missouri says the state’s poverty rate could be affected.
“There’s quite of bit of changes happening in our state just now that could deepen poverty and hunger,” said Mott Oxford. “When people are made hungry, there really is no good that comes of it. Any notion that people can magically find a job just because they’re hungry, is just magical thinking.”
The 1996 federal welfare reform law limited food stamp benefits to three months out of every three years for childless, nondisabled adults unless they were working 20 hours a week or participating in a qualified job training program. Congress gave states the option to request a waiver of the provision in areas with high unemployment.
One provision in a bill adopted last year by the Missouri Legislature prohibits the state from seeking such a waiver. That measure also changed the amount of time Missouri families could receive temporary state assistance from 60 months to 45 months. The law began on January 1, which means that thousands of Missourians are expected to lose their welfare benefits on April 1.
Republicans in both chambers said changes needed to be made to the state’s welfare program to help people set goals and find work. State Representative Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton) noted that the average length that someone receives temporary assistance benefits is 27 months.
Mott Oxford expects more people to turn to food pantries for assistance to make up for the loss in benefits. She encourages the public to give to local pantries.
“Our food pantries and other charities are already very strapped in our state and any amount of new people coming to them will have consequences in many of our communities,” said Mott Oxford.
She also noted that Missouri ranks second in the nation in the number of people without enough food to eat.