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Food Assistance Preserved for over 260,000 Low-Income Illinoisans

Diane Doherty, Executive Director, Illinois Hunger Coalition:, 312-629-9580
Michelle Nicolet, Marketing Director, Shriver Center:, (312) 368-2675

CHICAGO—More than 260,000 men and women across Illinois will maintain uninterrupted access to federally-funded nutrition assistance for another year, as a result of action taken by Governor Rauner last week to extend an eligibility waiver.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) provides assistance to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households in order to improve their nutrition and alleviate hunger and malnutrition.

The expiring eligibility waiver, which has been in effect since 2009, threatened access to SNAP for a group deemed to be “able-bodied adults without dependents,” (ABAWDs) who are not working at least 20 hours per week.

National data shows those in jeopardy of losing SNAP without the waiver have an average income of just $2200 per year and would have been left at high risk of severe hunger without SNAP. Governor Rauner has asked for a waiver of the SNAP time limit again in 2017.

“We are thrilled to hear that the waiver will be extended because we fully understand the devastating impact the loss of the waiver would have had on some of the poorest residents of our state, ” said Diane Doherty, Executive Director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition.

During periods of economic recession or high unemployment, states can request a waiver of the time limit. In August, social service providers, food banks, and members of the health care community sent a letter to the Governor, expressing their concern about reintroducing the time limit to Illinois’s SNAP program, and urging him to request a waiver for 2017.

“We know that individuals who would be subject to the time limit face significant and complex barriers to employment,” said Kimberly Drew, Senior Project Manager, Economic Security Policy Associate at Heartland Alliance, “such as chronic homelessness, low educational attainment, lack of employment and training experience, and health challenges.”

Applauding the Governor’s decision to continue the waiver, Kate Maehr, Executive Director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository said: “At a time when emergency food networks are working tirelessly to keep up with a sustained high need, this waiver will protect vital benefits for 200,000 of our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO, Cook County Health & Hospitals System, said “Access to healthy food and good nutrition is as important to a person’s health as prescription medication. Fewer individuals will have to make the agonizing choice of delaying medical care to purchase food, or going hungry so they can afford other household needs like rent or utilities. Ultimately, SNAP improves the health status of the people we serve.”

Although Illinois may not qualify for a statewide waiver again next year, it will have the opportunity to protect areas with high unemployment rates and prepare to implement the time limit humanely elsewhere.

“With a statewide wavier in place for 2017, we look forward to working with the Governor and his Administration over the next year,” said Dan Lesser, Director of Economic Justice at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. “This additional time will help us build opportunities and supports for SNAP recipients looking to enter or reenter Illinois’s workforce and to identify and exempt from the work requirement those who are physically or mentally unfit to work.”

Cook County Health & Hospitals System is one of the largest public health systems in the nation, serving as the safety net for health care in Chicago and suburban Cook County. CCHHS is comprised of two hospitals, a robust network of more than a dozen community health centers, the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, the Community Triage Center, the Cook County Department of Public Health, Cermak Health Services, which provides health care to individuals at the Cook County Jail and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and CountyCare, a Medicaid managed care health plan. The system cares for more than 300,000 patients each year and its physicians are experts in their fields, committed to providing their patients with comprehensive, compassionate and cutting-edge care. Today, CCHHS is transforming the provision of health care in Cook County by promoting community-based primary and preventive care, growing an innovative, collaborative health plan and enhancing the patient experience.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository, founded in 1979, makes a daily impact across Cook County with a network of 700 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, children’s programs, older adult programs and innovative responses that address the root causes of hunger. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 70 million pounds of shelf-stable food, fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 160,000 meals every day. For more information, visit or call 773-247-FOOD.

Heartland Alliance for Human Rights & Human Needs – Heartland Alliance, one of the world’s leading anti-poverty organizations, works in communities in the U.S. and abroad to serve those who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. It provides a comprehensive array of services in the areas of health, housing, jobs, and justice – and leads state and national policy efforts, which target lasting change for individuals and society. For more information visit, or follow us on Twitter at or like us on Facebook at

The Illinois Hunger Coalition (IHC), founded in 1988, is a statewide membership organization that works to end hunger and address the underlying causes by working for a deeper and more transformative approach to economic and racial justice through community organizing, advocating for progressive public policies, and public education. IHC’s goal is to organize grassroots collaborative efforts across low-income communities to expand programs that reduce poverty, bring federal and state resources to low-income communities, and train less advantaged people to become leaders.

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. We advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation’s legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients.

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