Proposed legislation would remove work requirements for student SNAP recipients

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MOTT HAVEN, the Bronx — College students could have much less on their plates to worry about if eligibility for SNAP benefits are expanded through new legislation which would no longer require them to work. 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a government assistance program to help supplement a food budget for in-need families.

Right now, students are required to work at least 20 hours a week or participate in a federal or state work study in exchange for the nutrition benefits.

New proposed legislation, called the EATS Act, aims to increase accessibility. The legislation stands for “Enhance Access To SNAP.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced the bill at Hostos Community College in the Bronx on Friday. Food insecurity in the area is high, and the college has a food pantry open to students five days a week.

“This would permanently eliminate the work-for-food requirement for college students, because students should be allowed to focus on their studies without worrying about where their next meal is coming from or how they will fit in a part time job on top of their full-time academic career,” Gillibrand said.

It’s estimated that the EATS Act would help nearly 4 million students nationwide and hundreds of thousands of students in New York state.

Hostos Community College president Dr. Daisy Cocco de Filippis said not having access to food could mean poor grades.

“Performance in the classroom drops, students take longer to graduate — if they graduate at all, some of them — physical and mental health are in danger, behavioral and attention issues are aggravated,” she said.

More college students became eligible for SNAP temporarily in COVID-19 relief efforts, but those changes will only stay in effect until 30 days after the public health emergency is declared to be over.

Legislators hope to include the bill in President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” package and are working to make it a permanent policy change.

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