PORTLAND, Ore. — The debt ceiling agreement in Washington, D.C. could result in big changes for Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) beneficiaries.
If the agreement passes through Congress, it would create work requirements for childless adults between the ages of 50 and 54. Those SNAP recipients would be required to work or volunteer 80 hours a month to qualify for the benefits.
There are some groups of people excluded from the requirements. People who are veterans or homeless or have lived in foster care will not have work requirements.
Some people believe the changes could negatively impact many Oregonians.
"There are certainly many families on our program that receive SNAP benefits," said Birch Community Services Operations Manager Andrew Rowlett. "And so that might affect them pretty dramatically."
U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows 730,000 Oregonians were recipients of SNAP as of February 2023. The number of recipients is higher in Washington, where 904,000 people utilize the program.
"If an individual doesn't have the capacity to be able to work or volunteer for those 80 hours, that could alter their life course pretty significantly," Rowlett said.
Birch Community Services serves as a food bank and financial consultant for many struggling families, he said. The non-profit works to ensure families can obtain food while saving money to restore their finances.
Rowlett said some people may struggle to fulfill 80-hour monthly work or volunteer requirements. He said proposals like this SNAP policy create umbrella solutions for unique situations.
"SNAP, for example, it's really kind of a blanket solution," Rowlett said. "It doesn't have the ability to be as dynamic and really address each individual situation."
USDA data shows hundreds of thousands of Oregonians have joined SNAP in the past five years. 50,000 Washington residents joined the program in the past year.
The average SNAP recipient receives $254 a month in benefits. Households receive close to $500 monthly.