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Maine Stories Show Harm From SNAP’s Three-Month Limit

July 12, 2019 at 9:30 AM

Our new video series featuring low-wage workers in Maine affected by the three-month limit on SNAP (food stamp) benefits shows why losing SNAP can make it harder to get a job and rise out of poverty.

In most states, adults ages 18-50 who aren’t disabled and don’t have a minor child in their household can only receive SNAP benefits for three months out of every three years unless they are working or participating in job training for at least 20 hours a week. Many people subject to this rule can’t find adequate work or training. Others work but their jobs don’t provide enough hours to qualify. We’ve written quite a bit about the time limit, analyzing the number of people losing benefits and the general characteristics of those subject to the rule. But behind the statistics are real people, as these videos show.

As Liz Duncan, who became homeless as a teenager and then lost SNAP benefits due to the rule, says:

As I was coming out of homelessness, I wasn’t able to work the 20 hours. Finding a job was probably the last thing I was thinking about. It was, how am I going to get clean clothes? How am I going to get a shower? How am I going to get a meal? Where am I going to sleep tonight? Now, I’m no longer homeless, and I work. So, looking back, I just could have used a little extra help.

Brian Strouse, a Marine veteran who was injured in Iraq, explains:

I lost my SNAP benefits when I came up against that 20-hour rule, and it’s very difficult for me to get food in my house. The struggle was very hard, and emotionally it hurt because I wasn’t able to provide my son with the things I wanted to provide him with like healthy food and snacks. My son was not living with me full time. When I didn’t have SNAP benefits, I would have to rely on friends and family in order for my son and I to have anything to eat and to eat healthy.

Some claim SNAP’s time limit is needed to motivate people to rejoin the workforce. But as Tim Keefe, a Navy veteran who lost his job after an injury and then lost his SNAP benefits due to the time limit, explains:

I want the politicians to know that there are these fissures and cracks in this 20-hour-work-week rule that people fall into, and they’re not able to work. And what are we going to do, just deny them food? Even if there were an abundance of jobs, there are lots of barriers and reasons people can’t get back to work, transportation being one in rural areas.

These stories illustrate the reality facing poor Americans who can’t find work and turn to SNAP for help in buying groceries. People from all walks of life have temporarily fallen on hard times and turn to SNAP, only to find it taken away after three months.

You can see other Mainers who lost SNAP benefits due to the time limit here.


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