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Thousands of Mainers will have a harder time getting SNAP benefits under debt ceiling agreement

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Advocates say that a tentative debt ceiling deal could make it harder for Mainers to access food.

Under the agreement struck by federal lawmakers, many people ages 18-54 would need to show that they work in order to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Those requirements currently only apply to people up to the age of 49.

Amanda Marino, the advocacy and leadership program manager for Good Shepherd Food Bank, says she's worried that could create another significant barrier to food for many older adults.

"Accessing food is important for everything else that comes after that. Getting a job, keeping a job and being able to maintain a healthy life hinges on meeting your basic needs," she says.

Marino says she is encouraged that the deal would exempt veterans and people experiencing homelessness, but she says many others could lose coverage.

Alex Carter, a policy advocate with Maine Equal Justice, questions lawmakers' claims that the risk of losing benefits would prompt more people to reenter the workforce.

"When we actually know the opposite is true. You take food off peoples' plates, it makes it harder for them to find a job and return to the workforce," she says.

Instead, Carter says that lawmakers should expand access to child care and transportation in order to reduce barriers to employment.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 3,000 Mainers could be at risk under the tentative agreement.