Mississippi won't be giving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients a break from a work requirement that went back into effect Jan. 1.
Recipients between 18 and 50 years old who are able to work and don't have children must put in at least 20 hours per week on a job or volunteer activity or be enrolled in approved training. If they don't, they lose their benefits after three months.
The requirement has been around off and on since 1996, but was waived by the federal government in 2008 during the Great Recession. Mississippi could continue the waiver because its unemployment rate remains high, but Gov. Phil Bryant is not going to do that.
"Gov. Bryant does not intend to restore the waiver," said Clay Chandler, the governor's director of communications. "The Mississippi Department of Employment Security and the state's WIN Job Centers are available to help these individuals find employment. In fact, MDES' Mississippi Works app currently lists more than 40,000 job openings."
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A study by the Mississippi Center for Justice found the requirement affects 82,539 people in Mississippi. On the Coast, it affects more than 8,000.
In 78 of 82 counties, the unemployment rate was higher in 2014 than in it was 2006 when the state first received a waiver, the center's report says.
"Allowing the time-limit waiver to expire and refusing to apply for a new one in Mississippi's hardest-hit local economies is not an effective strategy to decrease dependence on SNAP," the center's Matt Williams wrote in the report. "Preventing an existing lifeline from achieving its intended purpose will only serve to increase the need for and reliance on the public safety net. It will overwhelm food banks and direct-service providers."