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.
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.
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.
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.