About 142,000 senior citizens in New Jersey receive assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which works to combat food insecurity by providing healthy foods to low-income residents.
Only eight percent of residents over age 60 already use SNAP. There are likely many more seniors who are unaware they could benefit from the program, or face barriers in the application process that prevent them from participating.
“Seniors with limited mobility may have trouble getting to a SNAP office or accessing the internet. This can make an already tedious process even more difficult,” said Assemblyman John Armato (D-Atlantic), who sponsors legislation to streamline the SNAP application process for seniors. “The last thing we want is for some people to be intimidated by the initial application and end up missing out on benefits.”
The bill (A-2281), also sponsored by Assembly members Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), would require the Commissioner of Human Services to review and streamline the SNAP application process for senior citizens to the maximum extent permissible under federal law, and develop a senior outreach plan.
The Commissioner would be required to:
- develop and make available a simplified SNAP application form for use by seniors;
- provide for the increased sharing of data between the State’s various social services programs and platforms; and
- authorize, and establish appropriate procedures to facilitate, the simultaneous or cross enrollment of eligible seniors in the State Medicaid program and SNAP.
“SNAP is about so much more than reducing hunger. It helps people improve their nutrition, health and economic security,” said Mazzeo. “As we work to combat hunger in New Jersey, making SNAP more accessible is a top priority, particularly for our seniors.”
“Many seniors are on a fixed income. When you’re on a budget, you’re acutely aware that bills like your mortgage, rent or car payment stay mostly the same each month; but you can always cut costs on your grocery bill,” said Vainieri Huttle. “We don’t want to see seniors buy less food than they truly need, or get to a place where they cannot afford to eat. Simplifying the SNAP application process and raising awareness for the program will ensure more seniors take advantage of this valuable resource.”
Additionally, the bill would require the Department of Human Services to develop outreach efforts to seniors to raise awareness for the expedited SNAP application process. At a minimum, the Department of Human Services would provide outreach at all health care facilities, social service agencies serving seniors in the State, and other organizations focused on food assistance. It would use all available media, including print, radio, television and the internet.
The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.