Albany, NY - July 7, 2016 - 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.”
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 here.
Since 2011, more than 240,000 checks have been used by SNAP participants across the state.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “For families and children especially, it is critically important to have regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and FreshConnect Checks help make that possible. We are proud to offer this program to those who need it most, and in conjunction with the State’s efforts to expand the number of households eligible for SNAP benefits, our ability to feed hungry New Yorkers has never been greater. I applaud Governor Cuomo and OTDA for their effort to address this critical need in our communities.”
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.
Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren said, “The City of Rochester Public Market is the national leader among farmers’ markets in connecting low-income citizens with healthy, fresh, affordable food. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for providing us with the resources needed to improve our community’s ability to provide nutrition assistance to the people who need it most. Ensuring our citizens have access to healthy foods is key to our efforts to create safer, more vibrant neighborhoods, more jobs and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”
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.
Congressman Charles B. Rangel said, “SNAP is one of our most efficient tools in combating poverty and helps millions of parents, seniors, and disabled persons put food on their tables. Parents should never be forced to choose between paying their bills and feeding their children and I applaud Governor Cuomo for expanding access to the program for many of my constituents and thousands more New York families.”
Congressman Eliot Engel said, “SNAP is an instrumental program that combats hunger and, in turn, ensures parents and their children can lead healthy and productive lives,” said Congressman Eliot Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I applaud Governor Cuomo for prioritizing the needs of New York’s most vulnerable residents and extending SNAP eligibility to hundreds of thousands of additional working families.”
Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey said, “No one’s health, safety or success should ever be compromised because of hunger. That’s why I’ve been a stalwart advocate for SNAP funds in Congress. Too often, healthy meals are the budget-breaking necessities that hard-pressed families forego to make ends meet. These funds will help ensure more New Yorker children and families who are vulnerable to hunger get vital assistance.”
Congressman José E. Serrano said, “This is great news for New York City’s working families that can’t make enough to even put food on their table every day. Thanks to these funds, more families will now have access to the food options they need to lead healthy lives. Our local economy will also benefit from the millions of dollars in additional federal SNAP funds that will come to our state. More economic opportunity and a reduction of food insecurity means a better quality of life for everyone in the city.”
Congressman Joe Crowley said, “SNAP is one of the most effective federal programs in reducing hunger and food insecurity and it has a lasting positive effect on our most vulnerable communities, including young children,” said Rep. Crowley, (D-Queens, the Bronx). “Today’s announcement is welcome news for thousands and thousands of struggling families across our state, and I applaud Governor Cuomo for his efforts to combat food insecurity. I will continue my efforts in Congress to strengthen this vital anti-hunger program and defend it against Republican attacks.”
Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank for New York City and Chair of the New York State Anti-Hunger Task Force, said, “Each year, thousands of eligible, food-insecure New Yorkers are unable to receive food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) simply because they are denied the opportunity to apply. I applaud Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and his Administration for accepting the recommendations of the Anti-Hunger Task Force and making SNAP benefits more accessible for eligible New Yorkers, and for helping those benefits go further with year-round incentives at farmers’ markets throughout our state. While efforts must continue to close our state’s annual Meal Gap of 485 million meals, this is a significant step which will benefit New Yorkers in every corner of the state.”
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, said, “We are thrilled that Governor Cuomo took this historic step to both reward work and slash hunger. This new policy of the Governor and OTDA is a massive victory for hungry working New Yorkers. Currently, there are a million working-age New Yorkers who are employed but still food insecure. This advance will provide significant food support to many of them. No one should go hungry, but certainly no one working should need to choose between paying for rent or buying food. This announcement is an important step in ensuring that up to 750,000 more households will gain access to the food resources that they need. I was honored to be part of the Governor's Anti-Hunger Task Force that proposed this change.”
Linda Bopp, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions New York, said, “The expansion of categorical eligibility is a milestone in the fight to reduce food insecurity in New York State. Right now, one out of every six state residents struggles to put food on the table, according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center. We know SNAP is our state’s strongest safety net for nutrition assistance, and Governor Cuomo’s SNAP expansion will enable more of our low-income residents to have consistent access to healthy food. Hunger Solutions New York is working to ensure that people newly eligible for SNAP are aware of this new opportunity. Our Nutrition Outreach and Education Program Coordinators across the state will work one-on-one with clients, guiding them through the application process and helping them get the nutrition assistance they need.”
Deb Simonson, president of the Friends of the Rochester Public Market, a non-profit that partners with the city to run the Market Token Program, said, “Expanded eligibility for SNAP means that more families in our community will have access not only to the basics of a healthy diet, but also to the variety of fresh, locally grown foods from farmers in our region. Growing participation in our Market Token Program has brought significant additional business to the market’s farmers and vendors, and extending eligibility for SNAP opens the door to even greater economic impact.”
Nearly three million New Yorkers currently receive SNAP. Anyone can check whether they may be eligible for SNAP and apply online here.