Almost 50,000 able-bodied, working age residents receiving food stamps in Cook County, Illinois, will be forced to find jobs as of January next year.
The change is the result of Cook County’s falling unemployment rate, the Chicago Tribune reports, as it is no longer able to qualify for waivers from the federal government granted for high unemployment rates or when jobs are scarce.
According to the publication, the work requirement applies to individuals who are part of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, which provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budgets of 826,000 residents in need—the majority of whom are elderly, children, or people with disabilities.
Able-bodied SNAP participants under 50, as well as those not living with children or other dependents, will soon be restricted to three months of food assistance in a three-year period unless they work at least 80 hours a month.
SNAP participants who take part in work-related activities, such as the SNAP Employment and Training Program or volunteering, will also be exempt from the new work requirements, which come into effect on Jan. 1.
States are able to request waivers from the work requirements for areas with an unemployment rate above 10 percent or a lack of sufficient jobs over a 3- to 12-month period. A recent 24-month average unemployment rate 20 percent above the national average for the same 24-month period also qualifies areas to request such waiver.