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Food Stamps Saved, But The Next Clock's Already Ticking

Rosa Pergams, Griffin Berg, and Riley Newman fills bags with basic food items that will be distributed to waiting families at the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry in Oak Park, IL.

Illinois has taken steps to prevent 260,000 residents from losing government food assistance. That gives the state a year to prepare these individuals for the job market.

Under federal law, poor people without kids or significant health problems are cut off from food stamps; they're limited to three months of eligibility in three years' time.

But there's an exception.

If a state doesn't have enough jobs available, it can get a waiver from the federal government to keep it going.

Though there was speculation Gov. Bruce Rauner wouldn't go for that, this month his administration did.

Diane Doherty with the Illinois Hunger Coalition says Illinois was one of 11 states eligible because it’s so hard to find a job.

"There weren't even close the number of slots available to meet the need of you know, 200,000 ... 260,000 people," she said. "And so what needs to be in place is there needs to be more slots available for folks who are able to go in and get training and get employment."

Doherty says early data makes her think we'll be doing better job-wise by the end of 2017. She says that gives Illinois a year to make sure the job slots are available, and to make sure training and education are available to people dependent on nutrition assistance.

"I mean … it's an enormous challenge, an enormous task," she said.

Doherty says to make it happen, Illinois needs a budget that supports human services and higher education.

Affected individuals have an income of only about $2,200 a year.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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