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How a Tech Startup Is Helping Families Find Out If They Qualify For SNAP

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In June 2019, a House Agriculture subcommittee implored to discuss the 2018 farm bill as Democrats and Republicans instituted their opinions against Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility rules.

 

The inquiry was initiated to scrutinize the potential effect of restraining broad-based definite eligibility in SNAP, which the current administration plans to recommend this year after a related proposal was not incorporated in the 2018 farm bill. There was a hot exchange of arguments when Republicans presented a millionaire from Minnesota who allegedly got SNAP benefits to prove a point about eligibility principles. Democrats, on the other hand, declared it as a ridiculous stunt.

 

Sophisticated cat-el policy, as it’s identified, permits around 43 states to grant SNAP eligibility to families if they’re receiving a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefit. Under this policy States fix the traditional asset limits for SNAP, helping more low-income households getting eligible.

Revised Guidelines

According to the adjustments in the previous guidelines issued by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the revised Income Eligibility Guidelines to be used to ascertain the qualification of a household for SNAP will remain in effect from 1st July 2019 till 30th June 2020 (1 year). The same will be used by the schools and other similar institutions taking part in a range of food assistance programs offered to most deserving school children and adults under the Russell National School Lunch Act.

These annual revisions are made to harmonize the eligibility standards with the yearly changes in Consumer Price Index, for free or subsidized price meals under the National School Lunch Program under the Richard B. Russell National School Act.

The said School Program consists of the School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program for Children, Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program.

Income

The Federal income poverty guidelines provide a basis for the said guidelines which are calculated against the family size of the applicant household to verify their eligibility for the food assistance program. The term ‘Income’ in the eligibility manual means the total net income before paying any taxes or insurances and include:

  • Any monetary compensation i.e. wages, salary, commission or fees
  • Income from nonfarm or farm self-employment
  • Social security
  • Dividends on savings or bonds income
  • Rental income
  • Payments from welfare programs including child support payments
  • Unemployment assistance
  • Pension payments
  • Private donations from nonfamily members
  • Royalties etc.

 

But the income term is not used for benefits or cash received under any Federal assistance program which are, by law, excluded to be considered as a family’s income. Besides the price, any form of food assistance offered to children under this School program will not be counted as income when applying for any other benefit program.

Family

Similarly, for SNAP, the family size is vital to get qualify for the program and is equally important for applying families to determine who should be considered part of the family. Different benefit program has a different definition of household, SNAP considers all those living together under one roof, or preparing and buying of preparing food together as a family. For example, an adult child of a family living in the same house but purchasing food independently is not considered a member of that household in the SNAP definition.

 

A tenant whom you have rented out part of your house can not be considered family member and the rent amount will be taken as income while evaluating the eligibility.

 

There are exceptions also like dependent children and those under 22 years of age are counted as a member of the household regardless of their purchasing or preparing food with family or on their own. Another exception is for households with elderly and disabled members, who are considered family members as they are unable to cook food for themselves and the family does do for them.

 

An elderly patient living with a family but buying the food separately for himself/herself, in that case, the elderly person will be officially counted as a member of the household.

 

The given criterion of the family for SNAP is not different from other Federal assistance programs like Medicaid, where the family members are limited to those declared dependents on the tax documents. In SNAP, a friend living with a family sharing food is considered part of the household. It only requires that the proof that all those people are physically living together along with all the income coming into the house.

Eligibility Evaluation Service by a Tech-Company

 

A not for profit tech startup company called mRelief is helping people to know whether they meet the criteria for SNAP benefits. They have developed a questionnaire with 10 simple questions and an individual or a family can answer those questions to know their eligibility without spending a long time waiting in the agency’s office or making phone calls.

Genevieve Nielsen, co-founder of the company said that their goal is to provide the facility for everybody to access the safety net programs.

 

This initiative has unlocked over $91 million in SNAP benefits. There are an estimated 9 million SNAP-eligible people in the United States not receiving this vital food support just because they do not know they can receive this assistance. One-third of these non-participating eligible people live in California, where this tech company is based and where it plans to concentrate, but not limited to, offering its evaluation and information services

 

The mRelief also found massive disorganization of federally funded assistance programs offered in the city of Chicago, where according to the company, over 10,000 applied for housing assistance but only a meager 600 could qualify. The statistics reflect an immense wastage of time for those applying and staff involved in dealing with the whole evaluation process. The company focused the provision of its evaluation services on SNAP applicants and also foresees the potential for expanding their support to other similar programs.

 

According to the company’s official statement, it costs around $13 to enroll a household, whereas that household receives $1,000 in remuneration during the initial six months of this food assistance. This means that the company can provide this vital service in a highly cost-effective manner saving precious time and money for the applicants and the dealing agency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Stamps, News,

Frauds in SNAP and What the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Is Doing To Guard It

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Fraud is a deliberate action that breaks federal and/or state laws, not unintentional mistakes. Certain acts, such as trafficking SNAP benefits, are always considered fraud; other acts, such as duplicate enrollment, may be the result of either error or fraud depending on the circumstances of the case.

SNAP frauds are comparatively rare, according to available data and reports. There is no single gauge that reflects all the forms of fraud in SNAP. There are some frequently cited procedures that describe some parts of the issue

The official Congressional Research Service report on the errors and frauds in The Food Stamp program, updated in September 2018 highlighted the following facts about the fraudulent practices in the program.

Frauds in SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) commonly known as Food Stamps,  is the nation’s principal food aid initiative, assisting over 42 million people (with a federal cost of around $68 Billion per month in the year 2017). The program is managed together with state agencies, which take care of most recipient functions, while the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) watch over the states and handles most retailer functions.

In a program of these proportions with various stakeholders, detecting, preventing, and addressing fraud and deception is complicated. Food Stamp program is usually been reauthorized in a farm bill roughly every five years; this happened last time in 2014.

Policymakers have long been struggling in dropping interested in dropping fraudulent practices and refining payment precision. Provisions associated with these objectives have been included in last farm bill reauthorizations.

There are four main types of inaccuracy and misconduct in SNAP:

  1. Trafficking SNAP benefits: It is the unlawful sale of SNAP benefits in exchange for cash or controlled substances (firearms or explosives etc) and it can entail both retailers and beneficiaries of the program. This is considered as one of the most serious forms of SNAP fraud that diverts federal funds from the intended purpose.
  2. Retailer application fraud: This practice generally relates to an illegal effort by a store owner to participate in SNAP when that particular store or owner is not eligible for that service. To obtain SNAP authorization, applicant retailers must meet certain requirements, including stocking and business integrity standards. Avoiding disqualification during the application’s review process can be a potential source of fraud. Another kind of this fraud entails a store owner attempting to prevent ineligibility from SNAP by engaging in a supposed sale or transfer of ownership; after which the new purported owner applies to participate in SNAP, claiming that the former disqualified owners are no longer connected with the store
  3. Errors and fraud by households applying for SNAP benefits: In addition to the above, errors and fraud can take place during the evaluation of qualification and benefit sum for beneficiaries resulting in wrong payments. These could be either deliberate or unintended violation of program rules.
  4. Errors and Fraud by state agencies:—this can either be any intentional effort by state employees or state officials to illicitly produce and benefit from SNAP overpayments to favor the applicant. If a state agency commits mistakes it results in inaccurate payments; the debate of agency fraud mainly centered on certain states’ Quality Control (QC) misconduct.

Measures to Control the Fraud

USDA-FNS has specific laws to correct the mentioned frauds and has taken a number of measures to guard the very occurrence of these above particular practices.

  1. In case a retailer accepts or redeems SNAP benefits in violation of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (FNA), that retailer may be forced to pay back the amount that they criminally transferred. USDA-FNS also has the authority to publicly reveal the store and owner name for disqualified retailers. Retailers engaged in trafficking can be criminally charged and reprimanded with fines up to $250,000 and detention up to 20 years.
  2. In the case of falsification of retailer’s application then the retailer’s application is to be denied for a period ranging between three years to a permanent disqualification depending on the severity of fraud.
  3. SNAP certification is the procedure of determination of applicant’s eligibility to receive food stamp support. It is one of the chief responsibilities of state agencies (with federal oversight). Under-issuance or over-issuance of SNAP benefits can be the possible Errors (i.e., recipient errors and agency errors) that take place during this process.
  4. Agency errors generally occur due to the fact potential human error, and training and supervision of eligibility workers is the primary measure of diminishing them.

On top of the above corrective measures, USDA works to assure that only those households receive the SNAP benefits who are qualified for that and correct amounts are provided to those recipients. Over the last many years USDA has initiated major steps to improve the service quality of this program vital for the poor and vulnerable masses. make sure that only those families who are actually eligible for the program participants, and that the correct amount of benefits is provided to them.

Consequently, over 99 percent of SNAP beneficiaries, crosschecked by SNAP’s Quality Control (QC) system, proved to be eligible. At the same time, the payment accuracy was found 96 percent.

The precious resources coming from the taxpayers’ hard earned money were saved and now payments errors are half the numbers they were a decade ago.

Through Stronger Rules and strict oversight by the federal government USDA requires state agencies involved in the SNAP program have a foolproof system of verification of documents and electronic data including the Social Security Master Death File, Social Security’s Prisoner Verification System, and FNS’s Electronic Disqualified Recipient System, prior to recommending individuals for the benefits to prevent ineligible people receive benefits aimed to help the poorest.

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Food Stamps Are Expanding to Low-Income College Students

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SNAP for College Students

Back in November 2018, the New Jersey Department of Human Services announced new rules that will allow more poor college students to receive SNAP benefits. The food aid was planned to be offered to career and technical education students at community colleges, which is considered to be a top priority for Hunger-Free New Jersey according to the officials of the State.

It was estimated that around 67,000 poorest college students — several of whom face the awful choice of continuing their education or having something to eat- will benefit from this expansion of the program.

The Middlesex County College is among the pioneers of this new offer that opened a food pantry for students in early 2018. New Jersey Human Services Commissioner announced during his visit to the University that the SNAP will be offered to students in community college career and technical education programs. The advocates from Hunger Free New Jersey termed the condition of the low-income college students a hidden crisis on college campuses. New Jersey Human Services discussed and researched on how to tackle food insecurity among college students, expand SNAP eligibility for them, and raise understanding of food assistance on college campuses.

National studies reflected that around 40 percent of community college students reported being food insecure, which meant a not having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of reasonable, nutritious food.

While addressing the students in the University Human Services Commissioner Johnson said “SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger, which is a year-round problem for far too many people, including students who too often are forced to worry about food instead of their studies. Students learning employable skills in New Jersey’s community colleges should not be left behind when it comes to this crucial nutritional assistance program.”

 

Eligibility for New Jersey program

Those college students who are at least half-time students participating in state-recognized employment and training program will be eligible. The State Administration will now recognize all approved Career and Technical Education Programs at New Jersey community colleges as eligible SNAP employment and training programs.  Students qualifying for SNAP income eligibility standards and participate in these training programs will now have access to this critical food assistance.

The New Jersey’s administration, which is the first one to extend the offer to students, is committed to helping families by investing in access to quality and affordable childcare that helps allow students to attend classes and by providing this expanded and vital food assistance for eligible career and technical education students. For a lot of students, this initiative will make a remarkable difference which will not only mitigate potential barriers in the education of many but also make it possible for more college students to complete their degrees and succeed in life.

 

Proposed Bill the College Student Hunger Act of 2019’

Recently in early July 2019 a United States Senator and one of the Democrat’s presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts along with Rep. Al Lawson, a Florida Democrat introduced a bill aiming to make low-income college students eligible for SNAP benefits under.

The bill called ‘the College Student Hunger Act of 2019’ would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to include eligible college students for a federal Pell grant or whose families are considered low-income.

While introducing the bill Sen. Warren said, “As more and more students struggle to afford college and take on a mountain of student loan debt, nearly one in three college students cannot even afford necessities like food, our bill will ensure students have the support they need to work toward a better future without going hungry.” This bill is presented in continuation of a letter signed by many Senators including Warren submitted in February 2019 requesting a study on food insecurity at universities and colleges countrywide.

According to the official statement of the US Department of Agriculture, a majority of people between ages 18 to 49, who are enrolled in college with no disabilities, are not qualified for the program, with an exception for some students in state-designated work and training programs. The proposed legislation emerged months after a Government Accountability Office report identified that 2 million at-risk college students who could be eligible for SNAP didn’t receive benefits in 2016.

The other cosponsors of the bill include Senators Ed Markey, another Massachusetts Democrat and Kamala Harris, a California Democrat also running for president. Seven House Democrats co-sponsored the legislation, including Rep. James McGovern. Democrats on Beacon Hill welcomed the proposed draft of the legislation, including Senate Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico, Sen. Anne Gobi, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, and Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy.

The Contents of the Bill

The proposed bill would lower SNAP’s current work requirement for college students from 20 to 10 hours per week as the work requirement can often cause students to drop out of college because they struggle to balance work with classes and homework. Besides, the bill requires the Education Department to notify low-income students about their potential SNAP qualification.

In addition to informing states and educational institutions about student eligibility for SNAP benefits, the bill would also require the USDA to inform and launch pilot projects to try methods to make SNAP more reachable to students, including using SNAP to buy prepared food from participating dining halls.

Rep. Lawson also echoed Warren in a statement saying “The significant increase in college tuition over the last decade has forced students to choose between buying food or paying for books and housing expenditures. This bill will help to relieve some of that financial burden for them.”

Study

Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice surveyed nearly 86,000 college students from 123 schools and established that nearly half are “food insecure.” It was also found during the research that 45% of study participants often or sometimes are nervous that they do not have money to buy food or that their food will run out before they have the money to buy more or that they do not afford balanced meals. Currently, just 60% of first-time full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in six years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

A 2018 U.S Government Accountability Office report reflected that there are roughly 2 million college students in the U.S. who qualify for SNAP benefits but do not receive them. The GAO report analyzed food inaccessibility among college students in four states: California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Michigan. In Massachusetts, researchers did site visits of a two-year institution, Bunker Hill, and a four-year institution, the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

At present, SNAP eligibility differs from state to state, but the common condition is that the most non-disabled college students do not qualify unless they meet requirements beyond standards. For example, some poor students who have a disability or who are caregivers to a dependent family member can qualify for SNAP.

 

The chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy said he is aware of the issues that a huge number of college students having to choose between meals and materials for school. He maintained that with ever-increasing education costs, this legislation would provide concrete ways to assist students with the nutrition they need to thrive.

 

 

 

Food Stamps, News,

Eligibility Guidelines for Child Nutrition Programs 2019-20 Announced

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Child nutrition programs

 

This federal program is aimed to help guarantee that children in the United States have proper access to nutritious food. The program offers meals in a variety of manners including the provision of food in schools, summer programs, childcare homes, and after school programs. The brief description of the components of this program includes;

 

  1. National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

The NSLP is a federally funded meal program working in public, not for profit private schools and childcare institutions providing nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day since 1946.

  1. School Breakfast Program (SBP)

This program offers reimbursement to states to provide nonprofit breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare institutions. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), States and local food authorities manage this program at respective levels.

  1. Special Milk Program (SMP) 

This program supply milk to children in schools and childcare institutions who do not participate in other federal meal assistance programs. The schools are reimbursed for the milk they provide to children especially pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs where kids do not have the right to use to the school meal programs.

  1. Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

This program also provides reimbursements for food to entitled children & adults, registered for assistance at different participating childcare centers, day-care homes, and adult daycare centers. Under this program, the centers are reimbursed for food offered in afterschool care programs, children residing in emergency shelters, seniors above 60 years or disabled.

  1. Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

This program is funded and managed by the federal government pays back operators who provide free meals and snacks to children and teens in low-income localities.

  1. Team Nutrition (TN)

This is again a USDA endeavor to assist the child nutrition programs through technical assistance for foodservice, diet education for children, their care-providers, school and community support.

  1. Office Community Food Systems (OCSF)

The Office of Community Food Systems supports program operators incorporate local foods in the programs as mentioned earlier. Additionally, OCFS staff also coordinates with tribal communities to answer to their desire to better include traditional foods into our meal programs through the provision of funding, technical assistance, and research.

Eligibility criterion 2019-20

In March 2019 the USDA food and Nutritious Service announce the eligibility criterion for the Child Nutritious Program known as the Income Eligibility Guidelines. These are used to verify the qualification of the applicants for free and subsidized price meals and free milk from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.

 

These guidelines are supposed to be used by institutions and other services participating in the different components of the Child Nutritious Program. The eligibility guidelines are adjusted on an annual basis and required by section 9 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to align with the changing Consumer Price Index.

 

This current notice of adjustments in the eligibility requirements has been decided to be not significant and was not evaluated by the Office of Management and Budget. The related programs are listed in the Assistance Listings and are subject to the provisions of Executive Order, which needs intergovernmental coordination with officials at the local and state level.

 

These given eligibility guidelines are developed following the Federal income poverty guidelines with family size as a major basis in harmony with appropriate program rules.

 

What is Income

 

For the school program, as it is formally known, the Food and Nutrition Service’s eligibility manual defines ‘Income’ as the earning before any form of deduction i.e. income taxes, Social Security taxes, insurance premiums, contributions in charity, etc.

It includes;

  1. Wages, salary, commissions or fees;
  2. Income from farm & nonfarm self-employment;
  • Social Security payments;
  1. Bonus or profit on savings or bonds including income from trusts;
  2. Rental income;
  3. public support or welfare payments including unemployment assistance:
  • retirement pension payments;
  • child support payments;
  1. Private donations from persons not included in the household;
  2. net royalties; and

 

It is important to mention that “Income”, here, does not include any cash or benefits obtained under any program administered through Federal government, that are barred from consideration as income by any legal exclusion.

 

On top of this, the price of food or milk to children shall not be taken as income to their households for other benefit programs.

 

Income Eligibility

The following are the Income Eligibility conditions for the families to qualify for the Child Nutrition program for the period starting from July 2019 to June 2020. The Department’s guidelines for this federal assistance for children were calculated by multiplying last year’s minimum wages with income poverty guidelines by 1.30 and 1.85, respectively, and by rounding the sum upward to the next whole dollar.

This notice reflects only the annual Federal poverty guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as the monthly and weekly guidelines are not used to establish income eligibility.

These are rather calculated based on the following formulas:

  • For monthly income Annual income is divided by 12;
  • Bimonthly income is worked out by dividing annual income by 24;
  • Weekly income is figured by dividing annual income by 52.

 

The numbers reflected in these adjusted guidelines are for a family of four in the 48 contiguous States, the District of Columbia, Guam and the territories represent an increase of 2.6 percent over last year’s level for a family of the same size.

 

 

 

 

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Combination of SNAP and WIC Improves Food Security

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The introduction of SNAP and WIC

Food Stamps are a source to buy food, for the deprived communities.  It was established in 1939 by Henry Wallace, former Secretary of Agriculture. The name of this federally sponsored program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), implemented by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Administration.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children commonly known as (WIC) primarily protects the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at sustenance risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement their diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care. WIC is funded by the federal government through the appropriations process on an annual basis; states are not required to add contributions in the funds.  The US Congress on a bipartisan basis, since the year 1997 has been providing ample annual financial support for WIC to support all eligible applicants.  The program receives approximately $6 billion annually.

Unlike SNAP, the WIC issues vouchers for specific types of foods selected through a thorough science-based process because they are more likely to be missing in the diets of low-income women and their children.  The program offers a very limited number of foods — such as whole-grain bread, baby food, infant formula, and milk — and also separate “cash value vouchers” that they can use only to buy fruits and vegetables.

Individuals or families receiving no other related means-tested assistance and earning a gross family income at or below 185 % of the federal poverty level (at present $37,296/ year for a family of three) to qualify for WIC benefits.  To make things easier for program execution, an applicant who already entitled to SNAP, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance is automatically considered income-eligible for WIC.  A rough estimate is that around 73 percent of people approved for WIC benefits receive one of the other mentioned benefits.

The Study 

According to a recent study conducted by the Iowa State University and funded by the United State’s National Bureau of Economic Research, over 6.5 Million children among 40 million Americans are in the state of food insecurity. It could be translated as these Americans do not have access to enough healthy nutritious food, the majority of whom, solely depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the same.

A previous study in 2016 showed that around 51.2 percent of the households among SNAP beneficiaries were falling in the category of food insecure. In this recent study aimed to scrutinize the possible connection between SNAP & WIC, which is the third largest nutrition aid program in the country.

It was discovered in the research that both SNAP and WIC are complementary to each other and not the substitute.

One of the researchers of the University involved in the study said that the finding of the study can work as a guideline for the lawmakers to propose more effective assistance programs for low-income households.

Intricacies to determine the Impacts    

Both the SNAP and WIC are food assistance program with different objectives, addressing specific requirements of the participating individuals and families. The SNAP serves the low-income households’ nutritional needs in general while WIC takes care of dietary requirements of pregnant women, breastfeeding/new mothers as well as growing children and infants. On top of the food aid, the recipients are also provided guidance on diet and nourishment along with health services appointments. Both the programs have different eligibility criteria but there is a sizeable population that fulfills the standard set for both the assistance programs.

The individuals and families targeted in the study by the Iowa University were those eligible for both the programs but they independently decided to participate or not.

  1. This deliberate choice was one difficulty for the researchers to establish the effectiveness of food assistance program’s and how the program changed the status of food insecurity.
  2. Both SNAP & WIC are not arbitrarily awarded, and consequently, the difference between food security results on participating and non participating families could be varying due to their choice of applying for the program or not.

III.    The researchers were of the view that, although the most vulnerable are most prone to apply for these programs in case of a job loss of the head of the household, it might wrongly reflect that these programs have very little or no impact in securing the food need of that family. In reality, the recipients might look more food insecure that the eligible nonparticipants but more food secure than they would have been in absence of these food aid programs.

  1. One more challenge in the study was that the benefiting families are more likely to misreport the assistance they receive leading to inaccurate approximations by any study, so the researchers adopted a methodology that allowed them to measure impacts of these food aid initiatives more precisely.
  2. The methodology used the statistics from the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey or FoodAPS, as baseline information providing self-reported participation in SNAP and WIC and authenticated data for SNAP participation.

Results

  • The families included in the survey were on average consist of, four with two children, one under the age of 6 with a monthly income of about $1,600. Over 75 percent of whom with a rented residence, 26 percent without transportation and 11 percent had used a food store within the past month.
  • The Study also provided evidence that participating in both the said programs improves the chances of getting food security of the applicant by almost 24 percentage points.
  • FoodAPS cross-checked survey reaction about SNAP membership with official records to identify reply errors, but no corroboration was available for the WIC program. The researchers maintained that the new methodology was particularly planned to grasp this form of a situation in which researchers can confirm answers for some survey questions, but not others.
  • The ultimate goal was to establish a balance between postulations that could be frail enough to be probable, but strong enough to be instructive as one professor of economics said about the survey. The policy guideline recommendation is that the WIC is still relevant and helpful even during the course of SNAP implementation and by no way could be called overlapping programs or the ineffective increase in government spending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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California’s Food Stamps Program Is Expanding to Include 200,000 More People.

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California’s Food Stamps Program Is Expanding to Include 200,000 More People.

Due to the fact that a large number of older and disabled people in California ran out of money after paying for the groceries, medicines, and amenities and is a desperate need of assistance, reported by a senior citizen center of San Fernando, California.

The State of California has changed the law that came in effect on June 1, 2019, that meant to help those under severe financial difficulty especially those who had been ineligible for CalFresh food benefits offered by the state.  New CalFresh rules will vastly increase the number of people eligible for food assistance in California

The change in the law also removed a constraint against receiving CalFresh benefits that were faced by people who were also receiving other benefits namely SSI (supplemental security income) and SSP (state supplementary payments). The removal of the restriction made the retirement-age seniors or persons with disabilities receiving other state-sponsored benefits, eligible for food benefits that could average $110 per month.

This recent development was welcomed with deep pleasure by those masses that would potentially benefit from this fresh legislation. Many among SSI and SSP recipients may not be aware of this change yet, so the Los Angeles County Officials are trying to spread the word to reach the estimated 200,000 eligible people for the benefit of California’s new CalFresh food benefits program.

Eligibility

The new government assistance that was denied to a large portion of poor Californians now offered to them that include elderly, retirement-age seniors and persons with disabilities.

In addition to these, all those eligible individuals already receiving other benefits namely SSI (supplemental security income) and SSP (state supplementary payments) will also be permitted to apply for this new food assistance program.

By the estimates of the California Department of Social Services over 500,000 recipients of SSI will become newly eligible for CalFresh, the majority of whom are adults 60 and older.

Organizations helping people signing up

The motion was authored by County Supervisor Hilda Solis has recommended the Department of Social Services to work in collaboration with other line departments and community groups of the county to make sure the participation of SSI and SSP beneficiaries in CalFresh program.

The director of the senior citizen center in Reseda, Jenna Hauss confirmed the availability of a grant by an organization called ONEgeneration to help the target group apply for the new food assistance program. The organization has been implementing outreach activities since April 2019 in low-income housing communities.

The organization has also planned to facilitate the multiple application processes at their center or at the residence of those who are too weak to wait for extended periods at the office of the Authority, so that majority of the eligible people successfully apply.

The local hospitals’ staff and office workers of the authority are also going out to help out with sign-ups, this support also includes MEND Poverty, an emergency food bank offering meals for homeless individuals in addition to operating a medical, dental and eye care clinic.

Another charity called “North Valley Caring Services”, that organizes food giveaway event every Friday and also runs a “safe parking program” for people sleeping in their cars said that they are also planning to hire extra people to help get people signed up for benefits of CalFresh.

The North Valley Caring Services group is going to formally open a resource center for homeless individuals and households in July 2019 where personnel from LA Family Housing, housing for homeless services agency, and the Los Angeles Unified School District will be permanently stationed.

Similarly, the Los Angeles City Department of Aging officials announced in a statement that they are collaborating with the county and plan to roll out more outreach soon at the city’s senior centers.

Application time

According to the official statements, it can take about a month for CalFresh applicants to know if they got accepted or denied for the benefits,  that allow people to make healthier eating choices.

The successful recipients will be able to choose stuff from the market that is healthier and better for their diet meeting their dietary requirements.

The food benefits offered under the program can be accessed through a card at the cash register, which will be accepted at the majority of grocery stores, farmers markets, and many quick service restaurants.

Impact

  • California State officials, campaigners, and activists working for work with senior citizens say the extending CalFresh benefits will become a central safety net for many people in the fastest growing section of Californian population.
  • Based on the national statistics it can be safely estimated that up to half of all older Americans are exposed to malnutrition. Many of them encounter a very difficult choice every month, of buying food or paying others such as rent, healthcare, and utility bills.
  • Average assistance of up to $110 a month under this new food assistance program could be life-changing for older adults in an extremely difficult financial situation.

 

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Food Assistance Program Snap Has a Ripple Effect on GDP

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According to an economist from the Center for Community Solutions in Cleveland the federally funded food assistant program like SNAP, are excellent economic investments, looking at the impact they create in the national economic activity.

A survey conducted by the Centre where they analyzed over 22,000 requests for one food assistance program of Cleveland alone, reflects that food is the single most difficult challenge the majority of the people, living under or close to the poverty line, face. Around 33 percent of the residents studied, said they have had a serious issue with having money to purchase sufficient food in 2018.

Food is a basic need and agreed primary universal right for all and provision of assistance can be attributed as an investment. Fortunately there exist many public and private programs to assist households to get the required nutrition. The reduced-price lunch programs for students, meals offered to gatherings of the poor at mass lunches/ dinners, home-delivered food for seniors, the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) for moms and babies, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for low-income households, and food pantries and food distribution sites are a few examples of nutrition assistance programs. Although these programs had partially achieved the desired goal and many people are said to have reported that through these programs they have received sufficient nutrition support. But there is still room for more on State to State level as a large number of Americans still face this crisis.

Challenges to SNAP & Food Assistance programs

Nonetheless, policy suggestions at the state and federal levels pressure these vital programs. For example, recently a bill before the state of Ohio legislature — House Bill 200 – aimed to reduce the ability of some unemployed state residents to receive SNAP benefits. This is in addition to the changes, already made, in the administrative procedures of the SNAP application causing hours’ long wait for telephonic inquiries and increase rate of denials due to red-tape-ism.

The current administration under President Trump is also proposing an infamous cut on the nation’s food stamp program would affect a large number of families stressed to pay for monthly groceries and ripple through other areas of the US economy including supermarkets and discounters. The administration has also suggested changing the formulae for the measurement of poverty, which would also get hundreds of thousands of Americans to lose their food assistance with zero expansion of their financial situation.

There is another proposal under consideration to have an approximately 30 percent decrease in the federal budget for SNAP. Although the proposal is not received any warm response. The proposal also suggests mounting work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries and demands states should both contribute to the program funding and agree on the level of benefits they offer. This clause could further lead to a smaller number of recipients in the program or could reduce the size of assistance.

Negative Economic Impact of SNAP cuts

  • The federal government’s SNAP funding decreases when the economy improves and fewer people depend on the assistance. It’s a state which can be termed as the “best possible outcome,” said, vice president of food assistance policy at the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • According to the vice president of the center, reducing benefits at a time when people’s monetary situations are not improving could result that they are using their savings for clothing or even health to buy essential foodstuff which will have some un-estimated negative impact of the economy in general.
  • This is in addition to the lesser purchases of other materials at superstores or separate retailers.
  • An earlier report by the USDA also held that increasing SNAP benefits during economic recession starts a “multiplier process” in economic activity through improves transactions and spending. It calculated that by raising $1 billion in SNAP spending was could increase economic activity by $1.79 billion.
  • The experts believe that shifting costs partially to states would be extraordinary and likely lead to further decrease assistance as states may maintain they can’t afford to fund this food assistance during the depression or choose to cut benefits for other reasons.

How SNAP is supporting Economy

The effect of the SNAP on the national economy is studied using a general balance model and comparing initiatives of the economy from 2010 to a simulation of that economy without SNAP. In the absence of this assistance, the overall size of the economy hardly changes- only a slight increase in demand for labor. On the other hand, SNAP-eligible families would surely experience a net loss with a 5.5 percent less income while there would be approximately 1 percent more income for the ineligible households without SNAP but the output of products eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits declines approximately one billion dollars.

Assisting low-income Americans to get sufficient, nutritious diet has generated long-term benefits on the economy in more than one way. A fresh study published in the American Economic Review verified that participation in safety-net programs like SNAP increases a woman’s self-reliance in maturity. Women who had been SNAP beneficiaries proved to have superior educational attainment, better income with less reduced dependence on public assistance. On the contrary, food insecurity in the early years has also been associated with costly chronic diseases in many adults.

A majority of researchers have established a ripple effect when poor American families obtain assistance to buy groceries, it is commonly accepted that every single dollar paid in SNAP benefits raises the GDP by around$1.79. Improving millions of people’s access to nutritious food can also have additional long term public health advantages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a balanced and nutritious diet can help keep lead out of the human body especially in the localities where lead-poisoning has become a crisis like situation for example city of Cleveland.

When SNAP benefits are spent, multiple businesses benefit from these dollars. Despite critics’ focus on the costs of SNAP, research has verified that these dollars are amongst the best types of government incentives. SNAP spending causes local financial activity creates jobs in the agriculture and retail sectors and beyond along with helping millions of Americans to come out of poverty and hunger.

Food Stamps, News,

Food stamp recipients will be able to use online delivery services

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Initial Announcement

  • For the millions of struggling Americans, the 2.7 million New York recipients of SNAP, there was a positive development in April 2019, that grocery chains like Walmart, Shoprite and Amazon are offering the Food Stamp recipients to avail the online shopping facility.
  • It is the first time that the US Department of Agriculture has given go-ahead to the beneficiaries of Food Stamp program to use their benefits to buy groceries online and to get them delivered to their addresses. This service facility is initially piloted in the State of New York through a two years project. Starting with New York City, different stores will offer this service to the whole state. After the successful implementation of the test, it will expand to other neighboring states of Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington in the coming years, according to USDA. The online stores like FreshDirect, Safeway, Hy-Vee and Dash’s Market are also expected to join this pilot project in New York City.
  • According to the statement of the UDSA, it plans more than 38 million Food Stamp recipients nationwide to have the access to online purchases, making the lives of some working moms, as well as the elderly and disabled, to buy food without taking the pain to go to supermarkets. The move also opens up the new market to online retailers, as there is only a small portion of grocery purchases made online and this is expected to grow.
  • As per statistics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 20% of SNAP participants are either elderly or disabled and face challenges getting healthy food from grocery stores.

Other Options For Home Delivery

There are some websites that offer home delivery of the online shopped groceries in certain localities of specific states, they include;

Schwann’s – The website does not point out the locations of their service. Instructions: “Place your order online and choose “deliver to my door.” When your Route Sales Representative delivers your order, you need to present your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to him or her. EBT is only available for home delivery orders. You cannot place a mail order and pay via EBT.”

  • Fresh Direct – for Bronx, New York.
  • Shoprite – Select locations in MD, NJ, and NY. (Locations only. Not the entire state.)
  • Fresh Madison Market – Madison, Wisconsin and surrounding area.
  • Safeway & Albertsons – Arizona only. For individuals with disabilities only using EBT benefits and needs to use Safeway’s home grocery delivery service because of disability, please call 1-877-505-4040 or email us at deliverysupport@safeway.com”

Food Stamp Market Impact

 

  • Food Stamp market is worth $65 billion and has the potential to give a boost to these retailers when the majority of beneficiaries start shopping online. According to the recent figures, in 2017, $52 billion (around 82%) of this amount was spent at these retailers.
  • The data shows that 4% of Walmart’s total sales in the US come from food item purchases. The SNAP recipients are already an important part for many grocery stores and chains as a lot of money is pumped into the food storage system. For example, during the Government shut down in February, Food Stamp benefits were handed over early that significantly increased the sales in a number of leading grocery chains.
  • At the same time, the convenience stores are gaining over big-box retailers like Walmart, as they are rapidly opening new branches with an extended variety of grocery selection. It is expected that the new online service will help stores like Walmart and Amazon to compete rather take a share of the grocery market from these convenience stores as they do not offer delivery.

The Preparatory Effort 

  • The online shopping program has been in the planning since 2014 when Farm Bill called for USDA to test it. It is in the furtherance of the same that the recent announcement of the pilot is made. Using food stamp for online purchasing of groceries needs a high level of security to prevent misuse, as food stamps only cover permitted food items and not the delivery charges. It is for this reason that Amazon is waving its Prime Membership fee for food stamp customers in the New York pilot project.
  • Both Amazon has spent the last two years getting ready for the commencement of the USDA pilot. It had to build technology to accept food stamp customers’ payments and create new web features for shoppers using the program.

Delivery Barriers

Buying groceries online could appeal to food stamp recipients who live in urban and rural areas with no nearby grocery store or for those customers who don’t have transportation to get to grocery stores.

At the same time retailers will have to rise above several obstructions before they enter this market, namely:

  • The delivery of perishable food items is a big obstacle and online grocery stores are already struggling with it.
  • Finding a secure drop off spots for the grocery items.
  • Absence of internet access in some areas can also potentially hinder many food stamp customers in such areas from ordering their groceries.
Housing, News,

Can Non-Citizens and Undocumented Immigrants Get Section 8

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According to a study conducted in 2015 by Family Options Study for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the section 8 housing subsidy program was more effective in addressing the issue of homelessness than any other such program. The permanent vouchers were considered as more likely than a crisis assistance program in providing permanent housing solutions to the homeless which were increased the Obama administration. All homeless people can, in theory, get into section 8 housing.

In 2016, it was observed that these HUD homelessness grants were focused on refocusing solutions meant for urban areas where the competition was found sharp and emerging concerns of subsidies running out.

In 2017 the New Trump administration proposed around nine key cuts to HUD findings including lowering Housing assistance. Then in 2018 around $300 million cuts on this program was announced which amounts to almost 4.8 percent on the housing vouchers. According to public housing authorities, the even existing funding was not enough to grow or even maintain the program and initiated preemptive strategies. This included the withholding the housing vouchers and excluding certain communities from receiving the assistance.

Restricted or Unrestricted

  • Federal housing programs are either restricted or unrestricted. Restricted program means that at least one person of the household must be either a citizen or an eligible noncitizen while unrestricted means that anyone can apply regardless of their immigration status.
  • Section 8 and the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher programs allow families that are considered ‘mixed families’ to be eligible for this assistance. Mixed households are those that include members who are not citizens and do not have appropriate immigration status, to be eligible for assistance.
  • The HUD, however, adjusts the rent amount, the tenant pays based on the number of people in the household who are eligible immigrants. These programs do not require that the head of the household be a citizen or eligible immigrant. This is called prorated assistance or prorated rent.

Eligibility for noncitizens

Eligible noncitizens include the following:

  • Lawful permanent residents, any noncitizen living in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence. Also known as a “Green Card holder.”
  • Registry immigrants, People admitted for permanent residence by the U.S. Attorney General.
  • Refugees or foreign nationals in the U.S. who are unable or unwilling to return to their countries of origin because of fear of persecution.
  • Conditional entrants, Foreign nationals granted permanent resident status on a conditional basis have to remove the conditions of their status within two years from initial approval. Examples include a spouse of a U.S. citizen or foreign investor.
  • Parolees, Inadmissible foreign nationals allowed to leave an immigration inspection facility although not formally admitted to the U.S. Usually granted for humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
  • Withholding grantees, Withholding from Removal granted by a judge to a foreign national slated to be returned to his or her country of origin. Granted on the basis of likelihood of persecution upon return.
  • Persons granted 1986 amnesty status, under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. persons who resided illegally in the U.S. prior to 1982 and meet certain conditions.
  • Victims of trafficking, or relatives of such a victim by meeting requirements of 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.
  • Residents of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau or Guam

Latest developments

In 2017, The Trump administration projected a rule intended to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving federal housing assistance, the latest step in its efforts to ramp up enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.

More recently in May 2019, Public housing authorities say they were blindsided by a proposed federal rule banning many immigrants from receiving housing assistance — and, they said, they will fight to keep it from being implemented, even if that means ending up in court. HUD Secretary Ben Carson told lawmakers, in a country with 4.2 million families waiting for Section 8 housing vouchers, it makes no sense to keep sheltering residents living in the US illegally.

As per HUD statement, a survey reflected that only 1 in 4 families who meet the criteria for housing assistance actually receive it. Some 2.6 million families are waiting for these vouchers, while another 1.6 million households are waiting for public housing. Cities, counties, and states have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule, which was issued May 10, 2019. This could affect roughly 55,000 American-born children, because many receive partial subsidies to live in public housing with parents or grandparents who do not have their papers, according to a National Housing Law Project analysis of HUD data.

He defended the proposed rule to expel from public housing immigrant with green cards, refugees or asylum-seekers. The rule would require inhabitants under age 62 to verify their immigration status and their public housing or housing voucher eligibility.

Some child and immigrants welfare associations have criticized the proposal. They have argued that the rule is pointless because by law, many migrants, including undocumented people, already are ineligible to receive housing subsidies. But the rule would ban every member of a household from receiving a subsidy even if just one family member is ineligible, including those over 62.

 

Housing, News,

San Diego County to Receive Millions for Section 8 Housing to Accommodate Low-Income Families

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The Section 8 Housing Program is a low-cost shelter project financed by the federal government planned for the families who have below-average gross income per annum, in the region they live. All those families in the United States with low or ones with too little income, who could not afford to pay monthly rent, are eligible to apply for Section 8 Program, provided that they meet the criteria and submit required documents.

The City of San Diego is experiencing an escalating housing market and unprecedented market rents. Therefore, additional incentives and strategies are necessary to ensure that recipients of incentives are housed in a timely manner while ensuring safe, decent and quality dwelling units.

The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) is a public housing agency that provides housing opportunities for low-income and homeless individuals and families in the City of San Diego. In a recent move, SDHC announced that the agency is expected to receive approximately $20 million in federal funding to provide additional rental assistance to households with low income, including families experiencing homelessness, beginning with the Fiscal Year 2020, which starts on July 1, 2019.

“This is great news for San Diego. These additional funds will help the San Diego Housing Commission raise its rental assistance payment standards again as we continue to help as many low-income families as possible pay their rent in the expensive and tight rental market in the City of San Diego,” SDHC President & CEO Richard C. Gentry said.

The applicants for this scheme are evaluated on the rationale of income limits, family size, structure, expenditure behavior, criminal record, expropriation/ expulsion record and more. The family units, qualified for Section 8 low-income housing obtain support in the form of special housing vouchers that are issued by the Public Housing Agencies. PHAs are given finances from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Entitled families for this low-income housing program included in the waiting list in the specific area and on their turn, the PHA validate the eligibility to ascertain the conditionality of the criterion. It is important to note that due to the waiting lists are long of Section 8, sometimes it can take a few years before a family can get on top of the waiting list and until then a family can get disqualified for this assistance.

To get the permanent receipt of these vouchers, the eligible family needs to retain the eligibility conditions. The families can also join in particular self-reliance programs to be trained in how to attain sustainable financial independence without government support.

 

To find out more about Section 8 low-income housing in the U.S., look at the sections below:

  • What is Section 8 housing?
  • What are housing choice vouchers?

 

What is Section 8 housing?

Many families in the United States, who cannot pay for better accommodation, have to live in the second rate low-income housing units having very poor health and safety standards. If a family’s yearly income is less than the average income in the area, the family is entitled to apply for government support i.e. the Section 8 housing program. The objective of the Federal Government’s funded Section 8 program is to offer monetary assistance to appropriate low-income households, making them find a proper hired home in a good locality and pay a part of the rent through a lodging voucher.

At the local level, this program is executed by public housing agencies that establish eligibility and provide the vouchers. By serving families afford an upright house in a safe district, the federal government directly donate to an improved life standard and additional prospects for these families. Ultimately many households get to know the ways to able to uphold autonomous financial survival, free from reliant on public support.

The eligibility criterion for Section 8 low-income housing, families must earn 80 percent of the average area income. Very low-income families earn 50 percent the mean area income, whereas extremely low-income households earn 30 percent of the average income in their area. Families with lower are given preference for housing vouchers by moving them to the top of the waiting list. PHAs are, obligatorily provide 75 percent of the low-income housing vouchers to extremely low-income families. The PHAs publish the average income amounts each year as these amounts are diverse in all states and regions.

Besides earnings, the eligibility conditions of the families applying for this program are appraised against other aspects like the number of family members, family formation, way of life, operating expenses, expulsion record, possessions, and nationality. The PHA will gather information about the family earnings through banks, employers and other local bureaus to authenticate their suitability for the program.

At the other hand, the PHA has the authority to offer local preference at any time it deemed necessary. These can include, some families need this housing assistance more than others and, depending on the location and average area income, the PHA may give the first choice to a homeless family, a family that pays more than 50 percent of its income on rent or a family that has been forced to displace. As Section 8 housing vouchers are widely required, PHAs holds the right to shut the waiting list not receiving any more applications. In some states, the waiting lists have been closed for years.

What are housing choice vouchers?

The federal government of the United States planned the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program to extend monetary backing to low-income families, disabled handicapped persons and senior citizens incapable to pay monthly rent. The main goal of the program is to help low-income family units find a hired house by providing a portion of the rent through a lodging choice voucher. Program participants are able to look for accommodation in the private sector suitable for their family and needs, not to reconcile for substandard or unhygienic homes.

If you are approved for a low-income housing voucher, you can start looking for a good home. Once you find a reasonably priced and decent rental unit, the PHA will carry out a health and safety examination to confirm that the accommodation is habitable and is above the average of all PHA sanitary standards.

These housing units can be townhouses, flats or single-family homes, depending on the family’s structure and preference. In addition, the home does not need to be situated in a low-income region or a subsidized housing plan. To rent the home, the landowner is required to agree to have tenants who are in receipt of Section 8 aid.

The part of the rent amount is paid by the housing coupon and rest by the lodging family. Typically, the family pays 30 percent of its total monthly income for rent and utility bills, and in case the rent amount is higher than the standard, the family is liable for paying the remaining amount. In any case the, applicants do not have any right to use or withdraw the money and can only use the Section 8 low-income housing voucher to pay a defined part of the rent directly to the property owner.