Measures to Ease Registration, Boost Outreach & Expand Nutrition Benefits
A new report from the Food Research Action Center found in 2020, one in every 12 New Jersey households experienced food insecurity.
On Thursday, the General Assembly voted to approve eight bills sponsored by several Assembly Democrats. Part of a larger legislative package, including the “Working Families’ Anti-Hunger Act”, the bills that were cleared by the lower house are geared toward bolstering critical food safety nets: the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as food stamps, school meal programs, and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
With reports of lagging SNAP enrollment at only around 70 percent, many are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to and are missing out on crucial nutrition support. To help reach more children, families, workers, and seniors, among the bills moved were:
- A-2359(Tucker/Moen/Haider) Provides for streamlining of SNAP application process and establishes SNAP application call center; and
- A-2361(Jimenez/Sumter/Timberlake) Requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop and implement SNAP outreach plan; appropriates funds.
In 2021, SNAP benefits put food on the table for 815,000 New Jersey residents, including more than 360,000 children. Improving the program for current and future recipients, the Assembly also advanced the following bills:
- A-2360(Reynolds-Jackson/Mukherji/Speight) Eliminates the requirement that participation in NJ SNAP Employment and Training Program is mandatory for certain recipients;
- A-2362(Freiman/Mosquera/Sampson) Requires DHS to submit a federal waiver request regarding time limits for certain SNAP recipients under certain circumstances; and
- A-2363(Stanley/Mejia/Lopez) Concerns SNAP services provided at county boards of social services.
To help meet the nutritional needs of seniors and those with health conditions requiring specific nutrient-rich foods, which are often more expensive, the Assembly approved:
- A-2364(Spearman/ Pintor Marin/ Atkins) Makes FY2022 supplemental appropriation of $800,000 to the Department of Health to implement electronic benefits transfer system for Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program; and
- A-2366(McKnight/Carter/Verrelli) Requires DHS to issue a monthly supplemental SNAP benefit of $15 to senior citizens and disabled enrollees; appropriates $20.5 million to DHS.
One of the major challenges with assistance programs is getting eligible participants to sign up. To help ensure families are armed with the information about school meal programs their child can enroll in, the following bill was passed:
- A-2365(Danielsen/Giblin/Jaffer) Require the Department of Agriculture to engage in a public education campaign to educate parents and guardians of students about existing and expanding school meals program options in New Jersey.
This package builds on the success of initiatives championed by Assembly Democrats last session making it easier to register for SNAP, including measures that created a mobile application for residents to register for and track SNAP benefits, register for SNAP by phone, and provided for shorter registration forms for seniors and the ability for cross enrollment between SNAP and Medicaid.
The bills now await action by the Senate.