In difficult times like the present, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is one of the government assistance programs that makes the biggest difference. The program was once known as food stamps, and it’s pretty simple in design and intent: It helps low-income people afford food.
Right now, it’s more important than ever.
The amount of benefits that people receive depend on their income, size of their household and other factors. Even though the benefit starts at the federal level, it’s administered by states.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, roughly 201,000 Kansas residents, or 7% of the state’s population, used SNAP in fiscal year 2019. That’s before the pandemic and its associated fallout. About 70% of recipients were in families with children, and the average benefit was $1.20 per person per meal.
So it’s a modest benefit, but one that makes a big difference. And with negotiations over further coronavirus relief measures stalled in Washington, D.C., lawmakers should stop delays and bolster SNAP further.
Unfortunately, it looks as though the federal government is going in exactly the opposite direction. According to American Public Media’s Marketplace, in April "the federal government ... made it easier for states to approve people for SNAP benefits, by waiving the interview requirement and by allowing states to push out the recertification process for families whose benefits were about to expire so they could concentrate on processing new applications."
But not anymore. Without a new COVID-19 relief bill addressing SNAP, "the U.S. Department of Agriculture has told states that as of Sept. 1, they will no longer be able to waive the interview for all new SNAP applicants, and they will also have to start processing recertifications."
It’s possible now that those most in need of help — those children and adults going hungry — will be forced to wait as overburdened state bureaucracy churns.
This is all harmful and unnecessary. Leaders in Washington, D.C., should make sure that food benefits are available to any and all who need them, and they should support the states in making sure that continues. What’s more, they should ensure that families know that SNAP is available to help them.
There is no shame in staying fed and healthy. Public support programs exist for the general public, and our taxes support them. We must bolster SNAP and ensure that no one in Kansas — or our country — goes hungry.