SNAP Time-Limit Waiver Renewal in Question, Could Impact 200,000 Residents

This December, Illinois’ SNAP time limit waiver will expire, and if the governor’s office does not apply for renewal, 200,000 Illinois residents could lose their SNAP benefits, and the state could lose $330 million in federal funding.

What’s the SNAP time limit? And what’s this waiver?

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a federal program that helps very low-income individuals and families to buy the food they need. The amount of assistance received depends on the number of people in the household and their gross monthly income. For example, single adults are only eligible if they have less than $1,620 in monthly income, and the most a single adult could receive is $194 per month.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1

Current federal policy requires most SNAP recipients to be working at least part time or caring for a child. For 18-49 year olds on SNAP not working or caring for children, SNAP benefits are restricted to no more than three months in a three year period. Nationally, this time limit has significantly decreased the number of individuals receiving SNAP benefits (Fig 1.1). Since the limit became law twenty years ago, however, states struggling with high unemployment have been able to apply for a time-limit waiver, which allows able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) to receive SNAP benefits as needed, despite the work requirement. Illinois currently has a time limit waiver due to high unemployment, but it is set to expire in December. The governor’s office is currently deliberating whether or not to renew this waiver, and thousands of residents’ benefits hang in the balance.

Why does this matter?

In a recent presentation, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law reported that if the waiver is not renewed, up to 200,000 ABAWDs would lose their SNAP benefits. Although ABAWDs appear to be a less vulnerable population than individuals with dependents, in reality, this designation fails to account for many other barriers to financial stability.

Furthermore, the single adults who qualify for SNAP benefits are some of our nation’s poorest individuals, with total monthly income less than $1,619. Additionally, the average monthly benefit for a single adult is only $143, which amounts to less than $5 per day for food. One Citylab article states,

 “Failing to adequately understand and address the needs of … ‘our most vulnerable population’ shows a blindness on the part of state governments. ‘Just because you decide to cut people off or disenroll them in basic-needs benefits, they don’t leave our communities….They stay, and they deteriorate.’”

In addition to affecting thousands of individuals, losing this waiver would have huge consequences for the state budget. Every cent of SNAP funding comes from the federal government. By failing to renew the waiver, Illinois would lose $330 million annually in federal funding at a time when our state budget is already in crisis. Then, with those 200,000 individuals forced deeper into poverty, our already dissolving state social service infrastructure would be left to fill the gaps through increased Medicaid and other spending.

In short, failing to reapply for this waiver would eliminate food security for thousands of people and further destabilize the state’s financial situation. Want to voice your opinion? Use this form or call the Governor’s Office at (217)-782-0244 to ask the Governor to renew the time-limit waiver and continue providing SNAP benefits for Illinois’ most vulnerable residents.

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