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Anti-hunger advocate worries debt ceiling deal could lead to more food insecurity

Anti-hunger advocates claim nearly 40,000 Floridan's under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may soon see that aid shrink.
Allison Dinner
Anti-hunger advocates claim nearly 40,000 Floridians under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may soon see that aid shrink.

Who qualifies for SNAP will change under the bipartisan debt-ceiling agreement signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Anti-hunger advocates claim nearly 40,000 Floridians receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may soon see that aid shrink under the new debt ceiling agreement.

The law, a bipartisan compromise negotiated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden, suspends the nation's debt limit until 2025, which allows the government to keep borrowing money so it can pay bills on time.

A provision in the law increases the age limit for people with no disabilities and no dependents to be exempt from work requirements for food stamps. Before the change, the work requirement only applied to people between the ages of 18 and 49.

The law, signed into law over the weekend by Biden, will increase that age to 54 by 2025 — meaning to get food stamps most adults 54 and younger will need to work at least 80 hours a month or participate in classes or job training.

Republicans hope the change will persuade more people to get jobs. But Sky Beard, Florida's director of the nonprofit campaign No Kid Hungry, says that’s an assumption made on faulty information.

“There’s a narrative that those receiving SNAP benefits, don’t want to work, and there’s a tremendous amount of research that shows that just actually isn’t the case," said Beard. "It's one of those really important areas where there isn’t just on resolution that fits all families and fits all circumstances that communities need.”

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and known as food stamps. Under the change, The program cuts off assistance if a person without an exemption does not find work after three months without a valid reason.

Beard is especially worried about what the change could mean for people in rural communities like Gadsden County.

“Gadsden County has the highest rate of child hunger and food insecurity in the state, with over a third of its population living in homes that are considered food insecure," said Beard. "If you think of the size of Gadsden County, that’s a whole lot of children. That’s a lot of families, and that’s before some of these changes are made to significant programs such as snap.”

However, the federal Congressional Budget Office is estimating the change could end up making more people eligible for SNAP benefits.

The new law drops work requirements for veterans, people experiencing homelessness and people under 25 who have aged out of the foster care system.

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Adrian Andrews