“These are the faces of hunger in New Jersey,” said Adele La Tourette, Director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, while pointing at the photos surrounding her. “They look just like you and I.”
The Community FoodBank of New Jersey and hunger advocates from state organizations gathered at the statehouse in Trenton on January 11 for a press conference. We addressed the reinstatement of the three-month limit on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for unemployed adults who are not disabled or do not have children, a change that’s feared will cause even more hunger statewide.
The Great Recession led to the suspension of the time limit for the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) rule. But, this month, New Jersey and 22 other states will impose the limit for the first time since the recession, which will leave more than 500,000 Americans without SNAP benefits. As for the state, that means at least 11,000 people could lose their food stamps.
Many individuals who depend on SNAP are actively looking for work, including Patricia, who lost her job of 19 years at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, and has applied for 75 jobs with no success. The press conference focused on such client stories, as well as insights from hunger advocates.
Without the waiver, people in southern New Jersey will encounter the most difficulty because of the region’s high unemployment rate, said CFBNJ Director of Advocacy Diane Riley. In Cape May County, the unemployment rate stands at 12.6 percent, the highest in the state.
“There’s no way people aren’t falling through the cracks from this,” Riley added.
Jeanetta Warren, Director of Catholic Charities Atlantic City Economic Crisis Commission, explained that 8,000 people lost their jobs with the closure of four Atlantic City casinos in 2014.
Eighteen months later, “people are still feeling the aftermath,” Warren said. “Changes to the SNAP program [like the three-month limit for ABAWDs] will just increase the need.”
Advocates suggest that New Jersey follow the lead of 33 other states and apply for the county or municipal waivers to allow ABAWDs to continue receiving benefits. The only item needed now is the governor’s approval.