Residents in many West Virginia counties who are 18 but not yet 50 years old and have no dependent children will have to fulfill a work or education requirement soon if they want to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources said in a news release the federal requirement goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, in the following 36 counties: Barbour, Berkeley, Boone, Brooke, Cabell, Doddridge, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Harrison, Jefferson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Marion, Marshall, Mercer, Mineral, Monongalia, Monroe, Morgan, Ohio, Pendleton, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, Wayne, and Wood counties.

Calhoun and regional counties Gilmer, Clay, Roane, Wirt are excluded.

SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families.

The average benefit is about $160 a month.

Critics of the change contend the cost of administration of those excluded will cost more than issuing the benefit.

Recipients in the selected counties must either qualify for an exemption or consistently participate in a work or educational activity for a monthly average of 20 hours per week, the DHHR said.

A participant’s failure to meet the work or educational activity requirements will result in a loss of SNAP benefits.

SNAP recipients in these counties will be exempted from the work or educational activity requirement if they meet one of the following exemptions:

* Receiving SNAP benefits with an individual under the age of 18

* Working 30 hours per week or earning $217.50 per week

* Receiving unemployment compensation

* Regularly participating in a drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program

* Responsible for caring for an incapacitated adult

* Medically certified as unfit for work

* Receiving veteran disability income, or currently at least a half-time student.

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