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Reinstated Work Requirement Leaves Thousands of Kentuckians Without Food Assistance

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Putting food on the table has become a much bigger struggle for tens of thousands of Kentuckians over the past few months. 

The state began reinstating work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - or SNAP - on a county-by-county basis back in February.  Since May, new data shows one-in-five people subject to the requirement has lost SNAP assistance. 

Dustin Pugel is with the liberal-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, and co-authored the study.  He says he’s concerned about the work requirement being imposed in economically depressed areas of the state.

"There are still parts of the state that have not recovered from the Great Recession or have always been economically behind, and so expecting folks in those parts of the state to go out and find jobs when there are no jobs, just doesn't make a lot of sense," stated Pugel.

Kentucky sets a three month limit on how long adults without a disability can receive SNAP assistance without working 20 hours per week on average.  Over 54,000 adults in 112 counties are now subject to the requirement.  From May to September, SNAP participation fell anywhere between 47 percent in Marion County and 4.7 percent in Owsley County.

After facing a court challenge, Governor Matt Bevin's administration last week won approval for a second time from the federal government to add a work requirement to the state’s Medicaid overhaul. Pugel says the drop in SNAP participation is a harbinger of what could happen under the state’s Medicaid waiver. 

State officials, however, say there are alternative ways to meet the work requirement for SNAP and Medicaid such as education, job training, and volunteer work.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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