Under new policies that went into effect this month, thousands more low-income New Yorkers are now eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits.
Back in January, in his State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that SNAP eligibility would be expanded to more working households. As of July 1st, working households earning up to 150 percent of the poverty level can now participate. Anthony Farmer, spokesman for the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, says that's about $2,500 a month for a family of three. "This is gonna ensure that working families can move on to a better paying job, or maybe earn a pay raise at work and not have to worry about losing their SNAP benefits as they work towards becoming self-sufficient."
Almost 3 million New Yorkers already receive supplemental nutritional assistance. The expansion means the state will receive $688 million in additional federal SNAP benefits each year. Susan Zimet is Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of New York State. "By increasing the income eligibility to 150 percent, which is allowed to be done state by state, included another 750,000 households, which means it's over probably a couple of million people that will now be able to benefit from the SNAP benefits, what used to be called Food Stamps, which is really really fantastic, because it's not gonna cost the state taxpayers any more money, just taking advantage and benefitting from the federal government program."
Cuomo says it is unacceptable for New York to allow anyone to go hungry and that SNAP expansion is a "bold step" to ending hunger in the state.
- Check if your household is eligible for SNAP benefits: mybenefts.ny.gov
The trick for many households is staying qualified: Farmer says that $2,500 figure is gross monthly income.
Farmer: "The cap had been at 130 percent of poverty, so there was sort of a cliff at that point where working households could fall off of assistance if they earned just a dollar more than that limit."
Dave Lucas: "It's like a fragile program, it's like, if somebody's doing a good job at work and their boss wants to give them a raise they'd have to decline it, right?"
Farmer: "Well, or they'd have to make sacrifices. They may have to skip meals so their kids can have enough to eat, and we wanna make sure that people working towards becoming self-sufficient have the supports they need to continue to work and support their families and make sure their children are well-fed."
Zimet points out there could soon be additional benefits for hungry households: "One of the things that we're waiting for right now with fingers crossed is what got passed in this legislative session also was a tax credit, so a lot of the excess food from farms could now donated to food banks and food programs,emergency food feeding programs, and the farmers could get a tax credit. Now there's a federal tax credit, but it's for very large farms, so a lot of the farmers on a local level don't have money to pick up the food and ship it to where it needs to go, but with this tax credit now they'll be able to do it. And more people will now be able to access healthy food, between getting the SNAP benefits and getting the tax credit, which we hope the governor will be signing very shortly."