FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nicole Aber, 646-627-7741
SNAP Participants Increased by More than 68,000 in One Month
Advocates Urge Congress to Act Quickly to Provide More Funding for SNAP and Greater Improvements to Benefits Applications
Advocates Also Call for State to Restore SNAP Outreach Funding
“Shutting Down SNAP Outreach Now is Like Closing Fire Houses During Wildfires”
During the month of April, the number of recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — previously called the Food Stamp Program — in New York City jumped by 68,714 people. This represents the largest one-month actual increase in food aid recipients for New York City in modern times.
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a direct service and advocacy nonprofit based in New York City, said: “Unfortunately, we knew that this huge jump in the use of federally-funded food assistance was only a matter of time. A poll that Hunger Free America had commissioned in April showed that nearly four in ten NYC children were experiencing hunger since the pandemic started. The City of New York has been responsive to the needs of hungry New Yorkers, and has done an incredible job helping so many people get benefits so quickly, but we need much greater action taken on the state and federal levels in order to alleviate the massive amount of hunger in the city. Among these necessary actions are boosting SNAP funding by 15 percent, which was passed in the House Heroes Act — now stuck in the Senate.”
The 15-percent increase in SNAP funding would boost the average SNAP benefit by only 20 cents per meal, from the current level of $1.34 per meal to $1.54 per meal. In addition, the Heroes Act would increase the minimum monthly SNAP benefit from the current level of $16 to $30, allow people to temporarily buy hot foods at retail outlets that already accept SNAP, and increase funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
For comparison, the second largest increase in SNAP usage in New York City was in December 2012 with an increase in 42,138 individuals. During this time, Disaster SNAP was implemented in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“The other crucial piece to assisting low-income families is to implement easier, more streamlined processes for people to apply for benefits,” Berg said. “The current system is overwhelmed by the huge demand, and the only way to fix that is by giving states the resources that they need to update their benefits application systems. The HOPE Act — introduced by U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in January — would do just that.”
The HOPE Act would allow state, county, city, and tribal governments to create client-facing technology for households to apply for and access benefits in addition to allowing clients to establish voluntary accounts to centrally track the status of their benefits, applications, and renewals.
Berg added: “Given the massive backlog that many states and counties are now facing in processing unemployment and food benefits due to this crisis, these improvements are needed more urgently than ever. HOPE accounts and action plans have the potential to dramatically improve and modernize safety net programs both during the crisis and beyond, thereby both reducing poverty in America and ensuring more program efficiency for taxpayers.”
Even though New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently Tweeted, “It’s time for an anti-poverty agenda,” New York State recently announced, that, as of June 30, it will entirely end NOEP — the main State program that gives grants to nonprofits to help families enrolls in SNAP. If that decision stands, dozens of organizations in New York City and statewide will lose about $3 million in State funding, which otherwise would have enabled those groups to help struggling New Yorkers access tens of millions of dollars’ worth of groceries.
Said Berg, “Shutting down SNAP outreach now is like closing fire houses during wildfires. Especially since this program uses a small amount of State funds to leverage massive amounts of federal funds to feed low-income families, it makes no sense to hit it down in the best of times. But given that we are now facing the greatest hunger crisis in modern times, this decision is mind-boggling. I hope the Governor reverses this decision immediately so programs are not forced to shut down on June 30.”
 In January 2008, NYC had a larger reported increase in SNAP recipients due to changes in reporting populations that were already receiving benefits.