By
Cindy Huddleston
|
June 5, 2019

USDA Proposal Would Tie Florida’s Hands at the Worst of Times

This post was last updated on July 22, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.
On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

A USDA proposal would make it difficult for Florida to administer SNAP food assistance during economic downturns or in the wake of hurricanes. The plan ignores the challenges that SNAP recipients face in getting a job in today’s labor market that enables them to work 80 hours/month , and it puts the onus on local communities and charities to fill in the hunger gap.

Introduction

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a rule that would limit states’ flexibility in waiving time limits for unemployed and underemployed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in places where there are not enough jobs. Most adults not living with children who are abled bodied can only receive SNAP benefits for three months every three years. These SNAP recipients are called “ABAWDs,” which is short for “able-bodied adults without dependents.” The only way that these individuals can receive food assistance for more than three months in a 36-month period is to take part in Workfare (public service work without pay),or work or participate in a qualifying education andtraining program for at least 80 hours per month.


Under USDA’s proposed rule, Florida would lose the ability to conform time limits to the availability of jobs. Despite Florida’s low overall unemployment rate, ABAWDs receiving SNAP in the Sunshine State face unique barriers to finding work in today’s labor market, especially in the aftermath of a hurricane.  If the proposal is finalized, those ABAWDs who are unable to find jobs will be cut from SNAP and lose their only means to buy groceries. This is a lose-lose proposition not only for struggling families, but also for charities, local communities and the state as a whole, all of whom will be tasked with trying to fill the food assistance gap.

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