New data shows 21,400 Kentuckians have had Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits taken away due to a recent state rule requiring adults without dependents or a disability report work hours over a certain threshold or lose food assistance.

"That so many Kentuckians have lost food assistance - roughly the same number as the population of Ashland - is extremely concerning," said Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Analyst Dustin Pugel. "As a result of the state's decision to let time limit waivers expire, a lot of Kentuckians are going hungry, which only exacerbates our already poor health."

Starting in January 2018, Kentucky rolled out this work reporting requirement as a condition of receiving SNAP. By May 2018, all but eight counties had the requirement in effect. It is the first time since the requirement became an option for states in 1996 that it applies to almost all of Kentucky.

Only 138 of those who lost SNAP as a result of the time limits have regained benefits during the same period, pointing to the fact that work reporting requirements' primary effect is to reduce participation - not improve employment as the administration has repeatedly said is the goal.

Kentucky Voices for Health Policy Analyst Jason Dunn said "This isn't an unexpected, unintended consequence of the new policy. Past experience, both nationally and in Kentucky, shows these policies limit access by design. With almost no employment supports in place, food assistance becomes out of reach. This is especially true for individuals with undiagnosed physical and mental disabilities, those living in economically depressed areas, and people attempting to re-enter society following incarceration."

A state-federal program is supposed to allow Kentuckians to get job training in order to satisfy the requirement. But recent KCEP analysis shows that the program, known as SNAP Employment & Training, has been slow to start, is not available in all counties and has served very few people.

"Revoking food assistance does nothing to remove the barriers to employment that people face such as racial discrimination and lack of transportation," said Pugel. "There is now a 20 year track record of failure for these requirements to improve folks' circumstances, and Kentucky is no exception."