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Indiana adopts stricter food stamp policy, could impact thousands

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INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 20, 2014) - Thousands of people could be cut from the federal SNAP or food stamp program.

For years, Indiana has waived the federal requirement that if you use SNAP, or food stamps, that you either have a job, are in job training for one, or you're actively searching for employment.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced this week that the waiver is history and starting next year, food stamps could be cut for 65,000 Hoosiers.

"I do wish they would've gone with the waiver this year,” said Jessica Fraser, a program manager for the Indiana Institute for Working Families.

Fraser is concerned over new requirements for food stamps.

"One of the concerns that we have about these able-bodied adults without dependents is that they do have barriers; just because they're not federally designated as disabled,” she said.

Starting in spring of 2015, new requirements will mandate that any able-bodied Indiana adult without children will need to be working at least 20 hours a week, be in job training, or searching for employment in order to qualify.

"You can work less than 20 hours a week and still be in this category. So you could work less than 20 hours a week and lose your SNAP benefits on this timeline,” said Fraser.

Fraser said the state assistance program aimed at helping Hoosiers find employment is not ready for an influx.

"The employment and training program served 783 people in 2014, and when this waiver takes full effect, there's maybe 65,000 Hoosiers that are going to be rushing in to try to get on that program,” she said.

"I support the idea if it's incentivizing people to go back to work,” said Indiana State Sen. Jim Merritt.

Keeping people on food stamps without holding them accountable is a recipe for disaster, according to Merritt.

Merritt expressed concerns that a flood of food stamp seeking Hoosiers could present problems for the state's workforce training program.

"Maybe we ought to delay and make sure that we have the government help for people to be retrained,” he said.

Another concern is with food pantries. With potentially 65,000 Hoosiers having to give up food stamps next year, the demand at the Midwest Food Bank in Indianapolis may be far greater.

"Sixty-five thousand people would equate to about what it would take to fill Lucas Oil Stadium for a really good game,” said John Whitaker, the Food Bank’s executive director.

Whitaker said he anticipates that many of them will be forced to use food banks because they will no longer have food stamps as an option.

"Currently, one out of six Hoosiers uses a food pantry or a food bank,” he said.

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