SOUTH BEND — The new year is right around the corner, bringing new resolutions and goals for a lot of us. But it’s also bringing a big change to a welfare reform law that impacts thousands of people.
Right now, convicted drug felons are not eligible for SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps. But starting January 1, drug felons meeting certain conditions can apply.
This change brings a glimpse of hope to some parents struggling to keep food on the table.
“I’m somebody who has grown up kind of on the streets and has had a criminal background almost their entire life,” said Joshua Grove, who is applying for SNAP benefits.
For 11 years Grove spent his time behind bars on multiple charges, having limited access to his daughters.
It took more than a decade for him to realize something needed to change.
“It took my daughter crying on the telephone to snap me out of really doing my life for me and not for them.”
Grove is now working and making up for lost time with his daughters. But working 40 hours a week sometimes isn’t enough
“Just everyday living expenses. Food is the last thing I think about.”
And some weeks dinner isn’t served.
He’s always been hoping for food stamps, but never able to apply because of his convictions.
“I said ‘this is ridiculous. This has to change,’” said Cheryl Ashe, a convicted felons advocate in South Bend.
Ashe began pushing for a change to the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act restricting convicted drug felons from applying for SNAP benefits.
“It was punishing people who turned their lives around and it really hit when we had the recession and factories were closing,” said Ashe.
Since then she’s been working get the law changed. And on January 1st of 2020 she’ll finally see it become reality, as convicted drug felons will be eligible to apply for food stamps.
“Going from having an empty refrigerator to a full refrigerator, going from feeding the kids hot dogs to feeding the kids actual meals – that’s a huge difference,” said Grove.
Ashe says it will probably take about a month until people know if they’ve been accepted for food stamps. They first must apply and then go through an interview process and paperwork.
Drug felons will not be eligible if they are considered in violation.