SNAP is a federal food-aid program that helps low-income families put food on the table
(TRENTON) – A three-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gary S. Schaer, Gabriela Mosquera, Carmelo G. Garcia and Cleopatra Tucker to prevent delays and ensure that residents in need who apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits receive the benefits in a timely manner was approved Monday by the General Assembly.
“The number of people in New Jersey relying on SNAP has doubled in the last six years. And yet New Jersey ranks second to last in the country in meeting the federal requirement that SNAP applications be processed within 30 days,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), who is sponsoring all three measures. “Families that struggle to keep food on the table should not have to wait longer than what is required by federal law. These legislative proposals put systems in place to help ensure that low-income families in New Jersey who are eligible for these benefits receive them in a timely manner.”
The first bill (A-3963), sponsored by Vainieri Huttle, Schaer & Mosquera, would require a county welfare agency, county board of social services, or any other entity responsible for processing SNAP applications to provide a receipt proving the application has been filed. The receipt would be provided for applications filed in-person or electronically. The receipt would have to include at a minimum: (1) the date the application was received; (2) a checklist of all required documents or other verifications related to the application and the date on which each document was received; and (3) a list of all documents or other verifications still needed to complete the application and the date by which each item must be received.
The second bill (A-3976), also sponsored by Vainieri Huttle, Schaer and Mosquera, would require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to ensure that an expedited application for benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is made available to households under the following circumstances:
- a household with less than $150 in monthly gross income, provided that the liquid resources of the household do not exceed $100;
- a migrant or seasonal farm worker household who is destitute, as defined by regulation of the commissioner, provided that the household’s liquid resources do not exceed $100; and<
- an eligible household whose combined monthly gross income and liquid resources are less than the monthly rent or mortgage payment plus utility expenses of the household.
Under the bill, the county welfare agency administering the SNAP program would be required to make the benefits available no later than the seventh calendar day following the date on which an application was filed for the following individuals:
- a household which is entitled to expedited processing of an application;
- an applicant who is a resident of a substance use disorders treatment facility, community shelter for victims of domestic violence, or other group living arrangement;
- in the case of a resident of a public institution who applies for the federal Supplemental Security Income program under the Social Security Administration’s Prelease Program for the Institutionalized, SNAP benefits are to be made available within seven calendar days following the date of the resident’s release from the institution.
If a household is initially determined not to be entitled to an expedited application for SNAP benefits, and the county welfare agency subsequently determines that the household is entitled to an expedited application for benefits, the county welfare agency must process the application within the seven calendar days specified in the bill, which would begin on the date that the household was determined by the county welfare agency to be entitled to the expedited processing of its application.
“Food is not a luxury. Having to wait for these benefits because of a mistake made on the application or missing documents can have significant consequences for a family that is struggling financially,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Providing a receipt could help ensure that the application has been completed as it should be, preventing further delays in the application process.”
“Anyone who has been grocery shopping lately knows that the cost of food has increased. For many families in New Jersey, these trips to the supermarket cannot happen without SNAP,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Putting food on the table should never be optional. We must ensure that we expedite the delivery of benefits to those residents who are particularly vulnerable.”
The third measure (AR-175), sponsored by Vainieri Huttle, Garcia, Tucker and Mosquera, urges the Commissioner of Human Services to encourage the use of best practices and new case management models to speed up the counties’ performance in processing timely applications for nutrition assistance under the SNAP program.
The resolution points out that New Jersey ranks second to last in the country in meeting the federal requirement to process 95 percent of SNAP applications within the 30 days. Because of these delays, New Jersey stands to lose a share of the roughly $140 million it receives from the federal government for operating costs for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“These delays not only hurt families who are financially strapped, but threaten the federal funds that help make this program possible for residents,” said Vainieri Huttle. “We have to do a better job at processing these applications in a timely manner so to not deprive residents who need this the most.”
“Food is a basic necessity, and yet for many families in New Jersey, putting food on the table on a daily basis can be a real struggle,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “It is crucial that we expedite the application process so those residents who need help can buy the food they need to feed their families.”
“Nearly one in 10 New Jersey residents is on SNAP and a considerate number of those recipients live in Essex County,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “Unless we want families going hungry, counties have to adapt best practices to help speed up the process and get residents the help they need.”
“There is clearly a need for this assistance. These families qualify, yet are not getting the help they need because of an inefficient system,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “We have to do better job at processing these applications more efficiently so residents in need don’t have to wait.”
The bill (A-3963) was approved 76-0-0, the bill (A-3976) was approved 53-8-15 and the resolution (AR-175) was approved 76-0-0. The bills now await further consideration by the Senate.