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Advocates praise Cuomo's expansion of SNAP nutrition assistance for vulnerable New Yorkers

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Mon, Oct 19th 2020 08:10 am

Say new measures will make nutrition benefits easier for community college students, elderly & disabled individuals to access

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced new measures that will expand eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program, to up to 75,000 community college students across the state who are enrolled in vocational classes. These actions also include asking USDA to allow elderly and disabled New Yorkers to apply for SNAP using an abridged application to make it easier to receive benefits.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, thanked Cuomo for taking these steps to ensure more New Yorkers receive the food benefits they deserve.

“Expanding access to SNAP for college students has long been a priority for Hunger Free America, and we’re thrilled that the governor is using existing federal rules to reduce additional work requirements for some full-time students in this population, especially given the current job market and the massive rates of hunger we’re seeing due to the pandemic,” he said. “While the policy is not as expansive as we were seeking, it is a good start.”

In April and May of this year, 44% of college students at two-year colleges reported being food insecure, and 38% of students at four-year institutions reported experiencing food insecurity, according to The Hope Center. The new measures taken by New York will allow college students who are enrolled at least half the time in a “career or technical education program” to access SNAP without the previous provisions, which required students to work 20 hours per week or to be caring for a child in order to qualify for SNAP.

Berg continued, “We thank Gov. Cuomo for his leadership in this area and encourage his administration to waive these requirements for all community college students in New York so that no one has to worry about how to afford food while they are pursuing higher education and preparing for their future careers. Congress should eliminate these additional work requirements for the rest of college students. We also applaud the governor for requesting from USDA that elderly and disabled individuals can apply for SNAP with a simplified application, as the complexity of social services applications are often a major barrier.”

Hunger Free America has long advocated for a simplified application process for households to apply for social services. The organization’s recent report, “Access Denied: Unemployment and SNAP Benefits Application Barriers During the Pandemic,” sites “the many hurdles low-income Americans face when applying for public assistance.” According to the report, more than 40% of survey respondents in New York state reported that applying for SNAP was “time-consuming and difficult.”

Hunger Free America operates Hunger Free NYC, a division of the national organization that provides direct services to individuals and families by assisting them with the SNAP application process. Anyone in New York City who thinks they may qualify for SNAP can get a free, confidential prescreening from a Hunger Free NYC benefits specialist. Hunger Free NYC can be reached at 646-355-1475 (for English) or 347-599-1510 (for Spanish). For all New Yorkers outside NYC, information about SNAP and emergency feeding programs can be found by calling the National Hunger Hotline, operated by Hunger Free America on behalf of USDA, at 866-348-6479 (English) or 877-842-6273 (Spanish).

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