SNAP Benefits To Run Dry For Some In Multnomah, Washington Counties

By Amanda Peacher (OPB)
Dec. 2, 2015 9:36 p.m.

Thousands of people in Multnomah and Washington counties could lose food stamp benefits starting in 2016. Limits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits will take effect for some households early next year.

Normally, people who are unemployed and don't have children can get SNAP benefits for a maximum of three months each year. But in areas with high unemployment, the federal government can waive that limit. Since the recession, Oregon counties have qualified for this waiver. In fact, the three-month limit hasn't been in effect in most states for the past several years.

But the improved employment picture in Multnomah and Washington Counties has re-triggered the limits for SNAP benefits.


So starting in January, some SNAP recipients who are out of work will be limited to three months of food stamps. The limits apply to people between the ages of 18 and 49, without kids. The limits don't apply to those who are disabled, or taking care of someone who is disabled. 

Matt Newell-Ching is with Partners For A Hunger-Free Oregon.  He said that while the drop in the jobless rate is a good sign in Multnomah and Washington counties, the benefits reduction could pose hardships for people who have been out of work for a long time.

"If you are long-term unemployed it is particularly difficult to find work, " said Newell-Ching. "If you're in the hiring pool and an employer is deciding between somebody who is currently in the workforce versus somebody who has not had a job for a while, it's less likely that you're going to get the job if you have been unemployed for a long time. So this policy is going to disproportionately hurt people who have been looking for work for a long time."

According to Oregon's Department of Human Services, nearly 30,000 SNAP recipients in the two counties could max out of benefits in 2016. Oregon has one of the highest rates of SNAP participation among people who are eligible.