An expansion in the eligibility of federal food benefits could help local families and elderly. It might also boost the local economy – if people take advantage.
The big change in the SNAP program is raising the eligibility threshold to 150% of the federal poverty level. Food Bank of Central New York Outreach Director Amalia Swan can see a significant impact on those struggling.
“It’s as very big deal because we have a lot of families who are at that threshold or maybe five dollars over and it makes them ineligible for the benefits. So by increasing the limit, more people would be eligible.”
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…and is in addition to other benefits for those who qualify. Income, housing costs and medication for elderly are taken into account.
Food Bank runs programs to help people learn about it and see if the qualify. Many who could get SNAP don’t. One group Swan helps is elderly Central New Yorkers…and of eligible seniors in the area, only 16-20 percent take advantage.
“Pride is a big issue. Individuals not understanding that just like their Social Security benefits, this is an entitlement for them. People don’t have to pay SNAP benefits back. Breaking down those misconceptions are very important because people don’t utilize the program.”
SNAP can only be used for nutritious food, not anything prepared or fast food, nor can it go for alcohol cigarettes or other non-food items. An individual can get up to $194-a-month…that can rise to $649-a-month for a qualifying family of four to put food on the table.
Swan says it can free up money for rent, medication or other needs. She also says more utilization of SNAP by local individuals and families helps the local economy.
“For each dollar spent in snap dollars, it generates economic activity within the community, whether it’s keeping the grocery store employees employed with our local farmers, you know? Utilizing the farmers market all of these dollars come in and multiply.”
Food Bank figures show last fiscal year that meant more than $5 million in extra spending in stores and farmers produce. Governor Cuomo’s office says the new expansion could bring more than $680 Million into New York annually if people who qualify use it.