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Des Moines Resident No Longer Qualifies for Food Stamps While Unemployed

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DES MOINES, Iowa – An unemployed Des Moines resident received a letter that her food assistance will be cut off beginning in June.

Shanna Curtis said she was laid off at her part-time job in March due to the pandemic.

While employed, Curtis was making $320 a week. Once she filed for unemployment, Curtis began receiving $600 a week.

“I don’t think it’s fair because I did not ask for this. I didn’t ask to be laid off. Everything was fine and I was content with what I had,” Curtis said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, one of the qualifications for food assistance through the SNAP program is household income.

The income for the household must meet a certain number to qualify. It is based on the number of people in the house as well as having the maximum gross monthly income at 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

For example, a household of one person is eligible for food assistance if their monthly gross income is $1,287 a month. A household of two would have to have an income of or less than $1,726 a month.

Curtis said with the unemployment income, she now is making $2,400 a month.

“I was told today by the DHS worker that at the end of the day they have to calculate that $600 because it’s still government income towards the household income, towards food assistance, which I don’t think is fair,” Curtis said.

According to economists from the University of Chicago, 68 percent of people currently unemployed are making more now than when they were employed.

Prior to receiving unemployment, Curtis was receiving $335 a month for food assistance, and paying an additional $100 out of pocket to feed both herself and her child.

“Next month I really am struggling because everything is going to be running out here soon and now I am told I have no food assistance. Like, zero,” Curtis said.

The Iowa Department of Human Services said food assistance benefits are 100 percent federally funded through the USDA with strict regulations and guidelines through the Food and Nutrition Services division.

FNS released a memo that said, “Pandemic unemployment assistance payments, pandemic unemployment compensation, and pandemic emergency unemployment compensation authorized under CARES Act are considered unearned income for the purposes of determining a household’s SNAP eligibility and benefit amount. These payments are treated consistently with non-pandemic unemployment benefits and not excluded from income for SNAP purposes.”

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