With more New Jersey residents needing food assistance now than they have in recent years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin, Assemblyman John Armato and Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli sponsor a bill to make it easier for recipients to navigate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The measure passed the full Assembly and Senate Thursday, by a vote of 61-14-0 and 40-0, respectively.
SNAP provides food assistance to families with limited income so that they may buy groceries with their benefits. The bill (A-5880/S-3941) directs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop a mobile-friendly software application to make it easier for SNAP recipients to access and manage relevant information/documents.
“Fighting for food security in New Jersey continues to be one of my biggest priorities. That objective unchanged, it is now more important than ever to help countless struggling families put healthy, nutritious food on the table,” said Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “By providing quicker access to SNAP benefits through mobile-friendly software, this bill is one way we are strengthening our state’s anti-hunger programs for residents in need.”
With well over 1.8 million workers having filed for unemployment benefits in New Jersey last year, many families also experienced food insecurity for the first time as a result of the public health emergency. The number of residents receiving SNAP benefits increased by 23 percent over the past year, with 154,000 additional people signing up for the program since February 2020.
“Programs such as SNAP provide invaluable assistance to families who would otherwise have to wonder where their next meal will come from,” said Assemblyman Armato (D-Atlantic). “Modernizing access by providing mobile-friendly software would make it easier for New Jerseyans to view their SNAP case status, view their current benefits, request a replacement card, submit necessary documents, and more. A system that is easier to navigate is one that can ultimately help more residents.”
The measure appropriates $2 million to the Department of Human Services for the development and maintenance of the mobile-friendly software.
“SNAP is an important program that provides food support to more than 800,000 New Jersey residents,” said Assemblyman Verrelli (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Finding ways to make it simpler for residents to navigate this system will help ensure more families receive the critical assistance they need.”
The legislation is part of a larger package of bills addressing food insecurity in New Jersey. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.