(Jefferson City, MO) …. On Thursday, Missouri announced it will resume work-hour documentation requirements in August for desperately poor Missourians receiving help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). That is at least a month before the timing called for in the SNAP program by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, according to public policy experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC, contacted by Empower Missouri.
“The Families First Act suspends the time limit through the month after the month the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services ends the national public health emergency,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, Director of Policy and Organizing for Empower Missouri. “The emergency is presently scheduled to expire in late July, but can be extended by the Secretary for 90 days. With cases spiking in many parts of the country, that would be a very reasonable decision for Secretary Azar to make.”
“The earliest Missouri can go back to demanding work hour documentation of some SNAP recipients is September,” said Oxford. “SNAP is an important part of our nation’s recovery in a recession, so it would be wise to delay imposition of any rule that limits SNAP participation until we are well past the pandemic and safely established as out of the economic downturn.”
SNAP benefits are fully funded by the federal government, so Missouri’s state budget would not be helped by cutting people off of SNAP. Local economies would be hurt by a decline in SNAP, however, since the USDA”s Economic Research Service has projected in multiple reports over decades that each $1 in SNAP spending produces $1.50-$1.80 in economic benefit locally.
“We call on Gov. Parson and DSS Acting Director Tidball to immediately correct the misinformation released to the public and to conduct vigorous outreach to encourage every Missourian who needs food assistance to apply” Oxford continued. Missouri’s unemployment rate is still above 10 percent, according to the Department of Labor. COVID-19 diagnoses have been rising in many Missouri counties. In Missouri, nationally, and globally, COVID-19 continues to take a devastating toll. Families in poverty, especially African American families, have been especially hard hit in terms of illness, hospitalization, deaths, and also in lost income.
“Gov. Parson also has the ability to continue to relax TANF rules and should,” Oxford stated. “It is cruel and counter-productive to the health of struggling Missouri households and to a strong recovery to cut any family off of either food or cash assistance while unemployment is so high and pandemic precautions must be followed.”
Empower Missouri (www.EmpowerMissouri.org) is a statewide not-for-profit organization working to secure basic human needs and equal justice for every person in our state through coalition-building and advocacy. Founded as the Missouri Conference on Charities and Corrections in 1901, Empower Missouri has operated under four names in its 119-year history, but always with a focus on access to basic human needs and basic fairness.