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12,000 Arkansans to lose food stamp benefits; Local food centers to pick up slack

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Approximately 12,000 Arkansans will be without food stamp benefits by the end of the month.

Recipients who are between 18 and 49 years of age, who are physically able to work, and have no dependents, will be the target demographic that will be impacted.

According to Department of Human Services Communication Director Amy Webb, the state will no longer honor a waiver that allowed able bodied recipients to collect the benefits without having a job. Webb told Channel 7 News those impacted have been getting notices since December.

"Now that the economy has improved, we have done away with that statewide waiver. Now people who are considered able bodied are required to work," Webb said. "We sent out notices to them in December, and sent out another notice at the first of January. So this is really our third and final notice to say 'okay, you got benefits in January, February, and March. That's your three month time period.'"

Albert Simmons Sr. likes helping others. He does so at Riverside Ministries Homeless Day Shelter. Simmons says he knows what it feels like to need help

"It's constantly an everyday thing for me to respect and help what the government is doing for me as far as SNAP is concerned," Simmons said.

CEO of the Arkansas Food Bank, Rhonda Sanders, said the anticipated change will leave organizations like the Arkansas Food Bank left to pick up the pieces and serve those in need.

"Anytime SNAP sees cuts, we definitely see an uptick in those we present at our agencies needing assistance. Those are the folks on the front lines that really feel the impact," Sanders said. "We feed approximately 280,000 people a year. We provide enough food for right at about 19 million meals a year. If you take 12,000 more people are looking for food, If they need food monthly, multiple that by 12, and you are sitting at what? 144,000 opportunities or needs."

The state wants to implement the SNAP employment training program, which is currently only available in 13 counties.

The Arkansas Food Bank is one of the first in the area to apply for it.

"They can actually learn skills, like inventory and customer service, stocking shelves, things of that nature. Things that they can take and turn into jobs," Sanders said.

Simmons says providing training and life skills will help more people live better lives.

"It sounds God sent. They are going to give you stamps until you get on your feet. That is why they were there in the beginning," Simmons said.

For more information on the SNAP program, click here.

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