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The Most Recent Analysis.

Food Stamps to Be Cut in 8 Counties, 4 Cities

County assistance offices in Columbia, Fulton, Lackawanna, McKean, Northumberland, Susquehanna, Tioga and Venango counties, and in the cities of Altoona, Erie, Reading and York, have been instructed by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to begin terminating food stamp eligibility of needy able-bodied adults without dependents. The instruction is contained in Operations Memo 010603 issued June 11th.

Food Stamp Program participants in McKean County and in the cities or Reading and York will be affected immediately; participants in other areas will be affected at their next recertification.

In 1996 Congress limited eligibility of needy able-bodied adults as part of balancing the federal budget. Areas of high unemployment are granted an exception through a USDA administered waiver process. The eight counties and four cities noted above were not included in DPW's most recent waiver request because they did not fit the rationale DPW had relied upon in previous requests.

Federal regulations authorize a waiver for areas that "lack sufficient jobs" and then describe six different methods by which a state may establish this fact. DPW based its request on just one of the six methods ("labor surplus area"). Hunger Action has asked DPW to submit a second waiver request covering counties and cities where the "24-month average unemployment rate is 20 percent above the national average". Using this approach, five of the affected counties (Columbia, Lackawanna, McKean, Tioga and Venango) and three of the affected cities (Erie, Reading and Altoona) would continue to be covered by a waiver.

The restrictions on able-bodied adults are among the most severe of the 1996 food stamp cuts. Many needy individuals are without help - even in counties where they may be eligible - because of the complexity of the rules and the difficulty re-establishing contact after benefits are ended. It is unfortunate to terminate such persons based on a bureaucratic technicality, as appears to be the case for many in this instance.

Food Stamp Vehicle Rules

Effective July 1, DPW will automatically exclude one vehicle per household when evaluating Food Stamp Program eligibility. It also will exclude entirely vehicles worth less than $1,500 or in which the household has less than $1,500 in equity. The existing rule of partial exclusion (the first $4,650 in value) will continue to apply to other qualifying vehicles, such as those used to get to work.


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