The prolonged closure of business across the nation, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, has made it especially tough for low-income families already struggling to get by in these times.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed in order to help states provide greater benefits for families struggling during the crisis.
Normally, SNAP benefits are calculated based on a formula that takes into account how much available income families have for food costs. The difference is then provided up to the maximum eligible benefit. However this can still be insufficient since nearly 60% of families don’t qualify for the maximum benefit.
The new law gives each state either one of two options in order to raise the necessary funds to meet the greater demands of families in need:
- Emergency Allotment– This option allows states to provide the maximum benefit for up to two months, or as long as the federal government has declared a public health emergency along with an emergency or disaster declaration from the state, for families in need. Every state has opted for this option so there should be no issue of eligibility depending on the state you live in.
- Pandemic EBT – This option allows states to request for the meal replacement provisions to be made for families with children who would receive free or reduced lunch at school. The benefits would be received through SNAP, however it may be challenging logistically for states to fulfill. The USDA has issued guidance for states to follow in order to facilitate the process.
Many long standing roadblocks and bureaucratic red tape have been removed in order to better serve the public during these troubling times. We’ll list some of the more noteworthy exemptions below:
- The three month limit on an unemployed adult, without any children and under the age of 50, receiving benefits has been temporarily lifted.
- The in-person application interview will be waived temporarily.
- The Telephonic signature requirement that allowed households to apply for SNAP benefits via telephone with a stored verbal signature of agreement has been waived.
- The in-home case reviews will be shifted to remote online sessions in order to check the accuracy of household benefits.
State agencies also plan on unveiling a new online pilot program for SNAP which allows beneficiaries to make food purchases online all the while complying with the social distancing guidelines put in place by the CDC. Be sure to check with your local SNAP agency as it may not be available in your area.