COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Big changes are underway for a food assistance program millions of people across the country rely on and they’re coming down from Congress.

Officials with the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services said there are about 4,000 people in the county who could be affected by these changes.

Congress is expanding the food stamp age requirements for people who are considered able-bodied adults without dependents. This went into effect on Sept. 1.

Now people aged 18 to 50 without children are subject to work requirements in order to get those SNAP benefits in Ohio; the requirement used to be 18 through 49. In October, that age will increase to 52 and then by October 2024, the age will go up again to 54.

People in this age range will have to show they are working a certain number of hours per month or are enrolled in a work training program.

These changes come down from the federal level, but Franklin County is now working to make sure it’s a smooth adjustment.

“When a resident comes into the opportunity center, we do a full assessment so we will meet with the individual and see what they currently, what their scope is, and then if they did not meet one of the exemptions, then we partner up with some other third-party vendors to get them the training that they need,” Director of Franklin County Job and Family Services Michelle Lindeboom said.

The Ohio Association of Food Banks is worried that this may increase the already unprecedented demand food banks are seeing for food assistance.

“Our distribution lines are longer than they’ve ever been right now, and the changes to the SNAP program that we think that could help mitigate some of that are not happening,” Ohio Association of Food Banks Director of Nutrition Policy and Programs Hope Lane-Gavin said. “It’s estimated to impact about 28,000 older adults or older Ohioans between the ages of 50 and 55, and about between 750,000 and 1 million for adults nationwide.

Lane-Gavin said the changes could place an additional burden on those already in need.

“Being able to prove you’re working is a lot of paperwork,” she said. “It’s a lot a lot a lot of paperwork for a lot of people to process and a lot of paperwork gets lost in the mail, gets lost in email. It gets lost and many, many issues happen for this population especially, and so it’s more of a compliance issue.”

There are exemptions to the new requirements, including some new ones such as those without a home, veterans, and people ages 18 to 24 who aged out of foster care.

These changes are set to be in place through October of 2030.