State expands SNAP food program

Changes to aid older adults, disabled individuals and community college students

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ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced actions aimed at reducing food insecurity among community college students, older adults and disabled New Yorkers, including expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) eligibility to up to nearly 75,000 low-income college students enrolled in career or technical education course work and shortening the SNAP application for those on fixed incomes, particularly for eligible older adults and disabled individuals.

“From the community college student seeking to advance their career to the senior living on a fixed income, food insecurity and hunger are a reality for a wide breadth of low-income New Yorkers and we have an obligation to help them during their time in need,”Cuomo said on Friday. “These measures will help a greater number of individuals and families access benefits that will prevent them from facing the dire reality of food insecurity.”

The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, working with the State University of New York and City University of New York, has implemented a new policy expanding SNAP eligibility to low-income college students engaged at least half-time in career and technical education courses. The expanded eligibility will help students avoid food insecurity while advancing their education.

Income-eligible students enrolled at least half-time in a career or technical education program offered at a SUNY, CUNY, comprehensive, technical, or community college will now be eligible for SNAP. Additionally, income-eligible individuals attending any of the 10 Educational Opportunity Centers in New York State and enrolled at least half-time in a career and technical education program, remedial courses, basic adult education, literacy, or English as a second language will be also be included in this new policy. Previously, these students did not qualify for SNAP assistance, unless they met certain criteria such as working at least 20 hours per week, or caring for a child, or were unable to work, among others.

Through SUNY and CUNY community colleges, technology campuses, EOCs, and Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking centers, nearly 75,000 students attend part time to take career and vocational courses. At SUNY, about 31,000 students are in those programs and may be eligible. At CUNY, about 42,000 students may be eligible.

Governor Cuomo also directed OTDA to seek permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer a simplified application for SNAP benefits in an effort to encourage greater enrollment among eligible elderly or disabled individuals. SNAP applicants on a fixed income or with limited financial resources can complete a single sheet application, front and back, which will greatly reduce the amount of time and effort required to apply or recertify for benefits.

Although New York is the national leader for the rate of SNAP participation among adults age 60, older, or disabled, this rate is still lower than the state’s overall average. About 70 percent of eligible seniors and disabled individuals are enrolled to receive benefits, which is significantly lower than the statewide participation rate estimate of roughly 93 percent.

One leading reason proposed for this lower participation is the length and complexity of the application forms to apply for SNAP. The regular application includes nine pages of questions and information geared at determining a household’s eligibility. Because many elderly and disabled individuals live on fixed incomes and generally experience far fewer household changes, much less information is required to verify their eligibility and calculate benefits.

“Food insecurity continues to be a significant struggle for far too many Americans, and New York State has been a leader in our approach to getting resources to those most in need—through food banks on every college campus or nearby, and through innovative programs like mobile food trucks, local farm crop sharing, and even gardens on campus,” said SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said. “And today by expanding eligibility for SNAP benefits, we are telling students your course work is vitally important and we want you to stay on track to get the credentials you need.”

“These important actions announced today by Governor Cuomo build upon previous success that will make it easier for older New Yorkers to receive much needed benefits to combat hunger and food insecurity,” said Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen.

“The one-page simplified SNAP application will help thousands of older adults access hundreds of dollars a month in benefits that will help them make ends meet and improve their health,” Olsen added.

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