Tens of thousands of impoverished, unemployed adults were cut off food stamps Friday, the first wave of a social catastrophe that could affect more than one million people this year.
Some 22 states began terminating benefits for “Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents,” or ABAWDs, in the jargon of the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the federally funded food stamp program, or Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as it is formally known.
These adults, aged 18 to 49 years and without children, are generally the poorest section of the working class, earning only 17 percent of the official poverty rate, an average of barely $150-170 per month in income. But they are eligible for only 90 days of food stamp benefits unless they have paid employment or job training for at least 80 hours in a month. The 90-day clock began running January 1, so adults who no longer qualify under this rule began being terminated in state after state April 1.
The 22 states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia.
Another 22 states (see map) had already enforced work requirements to cut food stamp benefits for ABAWDs in 2015 or earlier. Those states account for 30 percent of the US population, while the states that are imposing work requirements this year account for another 35 percent.
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