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Hunger Free Oklahoma responds to expanded work requirements for SNAP recipients

Posted at 4:17 PM, Jun 05, 2023

TULSA, Okla — A local organization working to solve hunger is responding to changes to SNAP benefits as a part of the debt ceiling bill.

“Nearly 50% of Oklahomans are having to make tough decisions between paying bills and putting food on the table,” said Chris Bernard.

 Chris Bernard, President and CEO of Hunger Free Oklahoma, says they’ve closely followed the debt ceiling negotiations specifically as it relates to Oklahomans who get SNAP benefits.

 “For the first time, we have actually enforceable work requirements where if you’re an able-bodied individual with no disabilities, you’re required to work 20 hours a week, said Senator Markwayne Mullin. “That’s a huge burden, right? Come on, give me a break, of course, you should be working. You’re an able-bodied individual. You should go to work.”

 “Tying food, which is a basic need to a work requirement which is often out of somebodies control, doesn’t make much sense, and the data tells us it’s actually not effective,” said Bernard.

 Bernard says of the roughly 700,000 Oklahomans who use SNAP benefits throughout the year at the grocery store, about 10,000 will be impacted by the new rule.

 “For the folks who are 49 to 54 who may be disabled but not meet the definition required within the statute or may have trouble accessing work for other reasons are going to suffer and will lean more on our charitable side,” said Bernard.

 “I think that we’ll see an increase,” said Tim Neuman, Director of The Market at Catholic Charities. “Our shoppers that we’re seeing come through here, they’re receiving some type of assistance, governmental assistance, a lot of them are SNAP benefits or social security.”

 Neuman says they help fill in the gap, and they could see more people because of the changes. For Bernard, he says, ultimately, the deal trades one group of hungry people for another.

 “For some, it’ll mean they’re better off,” said Bernard. “For instance, our homeless population is going to be able to access SNAP on a more continuous basis which will help them get the food they need.”

 He says he’d like to see expanded access to this benefit for everyone who needs it.

 “If we want to do that, then we can’t just shuffle chairs on the deck saying these people will go without and these people will get it,” said Bernard. “We really need to talk about how we move forward and start to give everybody access to what they need to have a healthy diet.”

 The President signed the bill into law this weekend, averting a debt default across the country.

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