50,000 Cook County food stamp recipients need to find jobs to continue getting benefits in 2020

CHICAGO — The strong economy and the low jobless rate have prompted Cook County officials to impose new restrictions on food stamps.

About 50,000 Illinois food stamp recipients who do not find jobs next year risk losing their benefits, the Chicago Tribune reported. There are 1.8 million recipients in the program, commonly known as SNAP, in Illinois.

The restrictions will apply to able-bodied recipients under 50 who are not living with children or other dependents. Those who fall into those categories will need to work at least 30 hours per week, or participate in volunteer work or job training for at least 20 hours per week. Otherwise, they will be limited to just three months of food assistance in a three-year period, the Tribune reported.

This is happening because Cook County’s unemployment rate is too low to qualify for waivers from the federal government for high unemployment rates or where jobs are scarce. The change comes amid the Trump administration’s attempts to scale back the federal food assistance program, which feeds 38 million people, according to the Tribune.

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