SNAP Eligibility and Funding Changes Due to Coronavirus

Qualifying for SNAP can help you buy enough groceries during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of Covid-19, you might be able to put off paying rent or defer credit card payments. But the weekly shopping bill is one payment you can’t put off. If your income has dried up, any help you can get is vital. 

Funding and eligibility changes to the SNAP program because of the coronavirus pandemic has increased the number of eligible people. If you already get food stamps, you should get more benefits because of Covid-19 changes. But, if you’re claiming unemployment benefits for the first time, you might be eligible for SNAP regardless. 

If you’re broke, eating nutritious food is challenging. Studies show that people on a low income tend to have unhealthy diets. The lack of decent food can affect kids’ health and also put you at a higher risk of getting sick — not something you want during a health pandemic. Scientists also say having a nutritious diet can help a person recover faster if they get Covid-19.

But there’s a problem. Buying food is one thing. But affording healthy, nutritious food is something else. Good food is expensive. And, it’s got even more costly due to the Covid-19 outbreak. So, if you’re currently hurting for money, applying for SNAP can help you put a healthy meal on the table for the family.

This article answers your questions about applying for SNAP. Also, with funding changes due to Covid-19, we’ll look at how these may affect SNAP benefits.

What is SNAP?

SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Eligibility for SNAP — also called food stamps — is based on your level of income, housing expenditure, and resources you have. Payments are generally made through a debit card called Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). 

How can you claim for SNAP? The USDA says that a person earning under $1,354 per month can qualify. If the household is larger, then an additional $479 is added for each person. So, for a family of five, the gross monthly income limit is $3,269. If you already receive benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), you qualify for SNAP automatically.

What foods can you buy under SNAP? Eligible foods include fresh fruit and veg, cereals, dairy products, and meats such as fish, pork, beef, and poultry. But alcohol, hot foods, and hygiene products aren’t covered. Some states also provide SNAP recipients an allowance to buy meals in certain restaurants. 

You can get more information on SNAP from this government website.

SNAP Eligibility and Funding Changes from Coronavirus

Due to the coronavirus, changes were made to SNAP eligibility and funding. The Families First Coronavirus Act made it easier for hard-up folks to get their hands on cash to buy food. An additional $2 billion was also allocated to boost the SNAP program. So, families already getting SNAP were able to claim the full amount. 

How do these funding changes help you? According to the USDA, a family of two adults and three kids can receive up to $768 a month in SNAP benefits. But before coronavirus, most five-person families only received $528. However, due to the current changes, families can now claim the maximum amount. 

Another change in the SNAP program due to Covid-19 was the work requirements. Unless you were receiving disability benefits, you would have to register for work to be eligible. And, you could only get three months of benefits every 36 months if you weren’t working. The Families First Act waived those requirements. 

More changes to the SNAP scheme help struggling families buy food. You can now use your SNAP debit card to make online purchases. So, if you’re stuck in the house due to self-isolation, you don’t have to go hungry. Even if you don’t have signs of Covid-19, limiting trips outside the home reduces your risk of infection. 

Proposed Funding Changes and SNAP Eligibility 

The current SNAP program during the coronavirus pandemic is helping millions of Americans put food on the table. But no one knows how long the Covid-19 crisis will last, and when people can get back to work. And, the coronavirus SNAP benefits end on 30 September 2020. Then, the previous SNAP restrictions come back into force. 

To help folks hardest hit by Covid-19, a second stimulus check has been proposed. Called the HEROES Act, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives on 15 May. This Act aims to give more money to stimulate the economy. The HEROES Act also proposes funding changes to the SNAP program. 

Food insecurity is a hot topic during the coronavirus crisis. Under the HEROES act, there would be a 15% increase in the maximum SNAP benefit households could receive. This would be in force until 30 September 2021. The extra cash for food would mean that a family of five would receive an additional $115 per month for their groceries. 

But there’s more. The HEROES Act also proposes to suspend for two years the three-month time limit for jobless people. Also, the minimum benefit for seniors would increase from $16 per month to $30. If the HEROES bill passes, it could resolve food insecurity problems for millions of Americans.

Other proposals in the HEROES Act

What other financial help does the Act address? Here are a few:

  • A second round of $1,200 stimulus checks for most taxpayers
  • An increase of $13 per hour for frontline workers
  • Assistance to help pay rent and mortgages
  • Extend the unemployment benefits to include more people 
  • More money for state and local governments

Even if the HEROES Act doesn’t make it to the White House, there’s likely to be a second round of Covid-19 relief packages to prevent a repeat of the Great Depression. But keep in mind, there’s no guarantee the Senate will approve the HEROES bill, at least in its current form.

SNAP Funding During Coronavirus: A Takeaway

Millions of people already benefited from the SNAP program before the Covid-19 outbreak. Funding changes to increase the amount of spending means that millions more benefit. And, in these tough times, eating nutritious food is essential for us all to stay safe and healthy.