Law To Let Thousands Keep Food Stamps

Thanks to Congress, thousands of physically able men and women without dependents, who expected to lose their food stamps next year under a new federal welfare law, will continue to collect them.

Signed in August by President Clinton, the law reduced eligibility for the able-bodied to three months in a three-year period, unless the recipient works at least 20 hours a week, looks for work or is enrolled in job training.

The loophole is a provision in the bill allowing states to seek federal permission to exempt thousands of people from the requirement, an Agriculture Department official said Sunday. Recipients must live in areas where the unemployment rate is above 10 percent or where there are too few jobs for everyone.

“In this case, (the states) are just following what Congress built into the law,” said Yvette Jackson, deputy administrator of USDA’s Food and Consumer Service, which runs the federally funded food stamp program.

“Many states fully intend … to place as many people into jobs as quickly as they possibly can,” she added. “They just felt the waivers were necessary because of the difficulty doing it in such a short time frame.”

Under the new law, states could lose funding if significant numbers of their food stamp recipients can’t find work. Recipients also are told they will lose their benefits if they remain unemployed.

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