We at the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy are deeply concerned by attempts to create further restrictions on food assistance for hungry people in our community of the greater Pittsburgh area. As an organization that focuses on the self-advocacy needs of autistic people from all backgrounds, we are knowledgeable and aware of the difficulties that come with applying for and receiving SNAP benefits. We are connected to our community and have seen the benefits that receiving SNAP can provide to a person or family, but we have also seen the incredible distress that arises when food assistance is threatened. For this reason, we are unequivocally opposed to policies that increase the risk of hunger and other crises that arise from not having enough food or a way to purchase food. People who receive benefits now and in the future, should not be punished by complicated work requirements and time limits. Those who are working are already vulnerable – receiving benefits and working indicates that the person is not making enough money to afford food. Those who are unable to work but are “able bodied,” should not be subjected to further requirements that would reduce or remove their benefits as long as they are otherwise eligible.
Putting up barriers to food assistance will not incentivize or equip those who are the least able to work. Marginalized populations deserve dignity and respect with regards to poverty alleviation policies. People who are employed or out of the workforce entirely are people who may be houseless, in abusive households, have specific dietary needs that are unattainable without assistance, face serious barriers to employment, barriers to education, and barriers to training. Mandated work programs are often humiliating and do not provide training or education for the skills that are necessary in a local job market, or they may force people who are unable to work into work situations where they are exploited and at increased risk.
A priority placed on an attendance requirement with work and other training programs funds an inefficient system for everyone. People in poverty and receiving SNAP often have multifactorial complications in their daily lives that make strict attendance difficult or impossible. These programs fall short of the real education and/or training that would maximize the skills and interests of people involved along with connecting people to resources that are effective and efficient for moving people out of poverty and keeping them within their community.
We strongly support policies that allow states to suspend the SNAP time limit to best respond to the local needs of Pittsburgh. The federal government should continue to allow states the flexibility to forego SNAP time limits instead of imposing costly bureaucratic processes.
We also oppose limiting the definition of “unfit for employment” to only certain chronic physical or mental health conditions. There are a multitude of disabilities that affect employability, and if a doctor deems that a person is “unfit for employment”, their expert opinion should be enough to fulfill this requirement when applying for benefits. This definition change will subject people with significant employment, resource, and education barriers to time limits, increasing their risk of hunger.
The best recommendation we can make regarding the SNAP time limit is to abolish it entirely.
The Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy