750,000 Additional Working Families Now Eligible for Nutrition Assistance

SNAP Expansion Will Bring up to $688 Million Additional Federal Funds to New York State

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 750,000 additional working families are now eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP– which helps fight hunger among working New Yorkers. As outlined in the Governor’s State of the State Address, the state has adopted the recommendation of the Governor’s Anti-Hunger Task Force to increase the amount working households can earn and still qualify for SNAP. The SNAP expansion, effective July 1, is expected to bring as much as $688.5 million annually in additional federally-funded SNAP benefits to New York State, with an estimated annual economic impact of up to $1.27 billion.

“We are one New York and allowing any of our neighbors to go hungry is unacceptable and is against the very values this state was founded upon,” Governor Cuomo said. “This action will help put food on the table for hundreds of thousands more New York families and is a bold step toward stamping out hunger in Empire State once and for all.”

Eligibility for SNAP is determined by income and household size, though other factors, such as age and disability of household members, can also impact benefit levels. Applicants for SNAP must pass a two-part test to determine whether they are eligible. Before there is a careful review of a person’s actual, or net, income and expenses, there is an initial hurdle – the Gross Income Test – which requires that the applicant’s total household income is below 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or $2,177 a month for a family of three.

The Governor has directed the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which oversees SNAP, to raise the Gross Income Test level to 150 percent of poverty, or $2,512 a month for a family of three, for all working households. This will extend eligibility to as many as 750,000 households that currently do not receive SNAP benefits.

New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts said, “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, low-income working families will be able to access the help they need to overcome food insecurity. We are committed to furthering the Governor’s agenda in addressing hunger and to ensure that anyone eligible for nutrition assistance is receiving it.”

FreshConnect Checks
SNAP participants may also use their benefits to purchase healthy, fresh food options at participating farmers’ markets in New York, and through the FreshConnect Checks program they can make their benefits go even further.

This year, funding for FreshConnect Checks, administered by the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, has been increased to $425,000 and the program is also operating year-round. FreshConnect Checks provide a $2.00 incentive for every $5.00 in SNAP benefits used. This allows SNAP consumers to increase their buying power by 40 percent while also supporting local farmers. Checks for the summer/fall season are available now. For a map of participating markets visit http://freshconnect.ny.gov/.

Since 2011, more than 240,000 checks have been used by SNAP participants across the state.

SNAP at Farmers’ Markets
At participating farmers’ markets, customers can use their Electronic Benefit Transfer card to purchase $1 and $5 tokens with their SNAP benefits. The tokens then act as cash within the market for purchasing food. The City of Rochester Public Market, which operates the largest SNAP redemption program of any Farmers Market in the country, sold $624,000 in tokens in 2015, to more than 7,000 customers.

To better serve SNAP customers, a re-purposed shipping container has been acquired with a SNAP Farmers Market Support Grant, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This creative and affordable alternative for housing the SNAP Token center will more efficiently serve the increasing number of customers who purchase SNAP tokens to make purchases from 115 farmers and food vendors at the year-round market.

Anti-Hunger Task Force
In 2013, Governor Cuomo established the Anti-Hunger Task Force to identify additional steps the state could take to combat hunger and improve access to fresh, local foods. In his State of the State Address, the Governor announced that New York has adopted a number of recommendations made by the task force, in addition to raising the Gross Income Test. They include:

  • Committing $22.5 million to extend a $4.5 million annual investment in the state’s emergency food providers through 2020.
  • Creating the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy, to establish a permanent focus on anti-hunger issues in the state.
  • Continuing to support $250,000 in grants to help child and adult care programs to maximize federal funds that subsidize free, healthy meals served in child care programs, adult day care centers, afterschool programs and shelters.
  • Redesigning the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards that recipients use to make purchases with their SNAP benefits, to help reduce stigma by making the card look more like a credit card.

Nearly three million New Yorkers currently receive SNAP. Anyone can check whether they may be eligible for SNAP and apply online at myBenefits.ny.gov.