In Focus: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Sep 30, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Food Insecurity in the Spotlight

By Randi Hall and Nune Phillips

Far too many households in the United States have limited access to adequate food due to lack of money and other resources—this is known as food insecurity. According to this year’s Household Food Security in the United States report published recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 48.1 million people in the United States (15.4 percent) lived in food-insecure households in 2014, an insignificant decline from 15.8 percent in 2013. Just as families with children are most likely to be poor in the U.S., households with children are also more likely to have food insecurity than those without (19.2 percent vs. 14 percent). Food-insecure households are also more likely to be headed by a single mother and to live below 130 percent of the poverty threshold. Moreover, 6.9 million households experience “very low food security”—they worry about running out of groceries before being able to buy more, or cut or skip meals and purposely go hungry. 

Food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are vital to reducing persistent hunger among low-income households. In recognition of the increase in food insecurity brought on by the Great Recession, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased the monthly SNAP benefit through November 1, 2013. However, since this higher benefit ended, families with young children are 17 percent more likely to experience food insecurity for both the household and the children. According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure (an experimental poverty measure that counts non-cash benefits to determine alternative poverty thresholds), SNAP alone kept 4.7 million people above the poverty line in 2014.

Millions of SNAP recipients will miss meals if their food assistance benefits are delayed, decreased, or otherwise negatively impacted. Over the next ten weeks as the FY 2016 federal budget operates under the temporary Continuing Resolution (CR), Congress will be deliberating a more permanent budget and must ensure SNAP is secure. Adequate and accessible nutrition is vital to human development, and children and families should not have to bear the consequences of Congressional inaction.  

Sep 4, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

CMS Announces New State Option to Streamline Medicaid Enrollment and Renewal

By Suzanne Wikle

On August 31, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new opportunity for states to use existing data to determine Medicaid eligibility. The new guidance provides states with an exciting new option to use income data from SNAP (or other means-tested programs) to determine Medicaid eligibility, both initially and upon renewal.  Adopting this strategy will reduce administrative burdens on states and recipients, allowing states to offer a streamlined application process to many individuals who are receiving SNAP but not Medicaid, both of which are important work support programs.

The new option provided in this guidance only applies to a subset of SNAP recipients who are certain to be income-eligible for Medicaid based on their gross SNAP income and household composition.  This new tool for states to increase Medicaid enrollment is especially exciting because it can be used for both enrollment and renewal, does not require a waiver, and is available on an ongoing basis. With the new guidance, CMS continues to provide states with tools to simplify Medicaid eligibility determinations, enrollment, and renewals.

This guidance expands upon an option originally provided to states in guidance issued in May 2013. In the six states that opted to use “strategy 3” from the 2013 guidance, which allows states to enroll most SNAP recipients under age 65 into Medicaid,  the use of SNAP data led to more than 700,000 Medicaid enrollments.  However, this strategy can only be used for initial enrollment, requires states to obtain a waiver, and was originally scheduled to expire in December 2015. In the new guidance CMS indicates it will continue to approve waivers beyond the original 2015 expiration date for “strategy 3” and other options provided in the 2013 guidance to the extent “necessary to ensure that states establish income and eligibility determination systems that protect beneficiaries” or in a state that has newly expanded Medicaid eligibility through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As states continue to tackle the job of implementing the ACA, using new options to streamline and simplify enrollment procedures across programs will be imperative to achieving efficiency and reducing burdens, both for caseworkers and those receiving the benefits.  This week’s guidance from CMS provides states with one more tool to streamline access to work support programs. With numerous additional states adopting Medicaid expansion since the 2013 guidance, this new option has great potential to build upon “strategy 3” and reach millions of uninsured Americans eligible for Medicaid.

Aug 27, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

CLASP Announces New Advocacy Initiative to Promote Benefit Access

CLASP is excited to announce Advancing Strategies to Align Programs (ASAP), a new advocacy initiative to help state advocates working to increase enrollment in work support programs, particularly Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps), through program alignment and information sharing. Drawing on lessons from Work Support Strategies (WSS) and leveraging opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this initiative comes at a time when many advocates and states are focused on providing work supports in the most efficient and integrated  manner.

Advocates in five states – Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania – will receive support from CLASP to advocate for improved delivery systems and integration of key work support programs, with a specific emphasis on Medicaid and SNAP. In partnership with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, CLASP will also provide grantees with in-depth technical assistance and share lessons learned from the project with a broader audience of advocates.

Many individuals and families who are eligible for core benefit programs do not participate, and participation rates vary by state. For example, in 2012, 83 percent of Americans eligible for SNAP benefits received them, but in Colorado, only 76 percent received them. National participation rates are lower for the full package of programs; despite the large overlap in eligibility for Medicaid and SNAP, one estimate found that just 58 percent of children who were likely to be eligible for both SNAP and Medicaid received both programs in 2009, while 14 percent received neither. Even among those who receive work supports, people often “churn” on and off benefits, creating instability for families and consuming time and resources of both participants and state agencies.  As demonstrated by WSS, states can expand access and reduce the burden on both participants and states by using information provided to one program to certify or re-determine eligibility for another program.

Increasing participation will ensure low-income people have the health insurance and nutrition support to meet their basic needs and achieve stability, allowing adults to succeed at work and promoting children’s healthy development. A significant and growing body of evidence shows that participation in work support programs improves short- and long-term health, educational, and economic outcomes. Research also suggests that receiving the full package of work support benefits, rather than just a single program, can be of particular importance in helping low-income people stabilize their lives.

The ASAP grantees, selected through a competitive process, have a history of providing a strong advocacy voice in their communities and generating policy and administrative change—often in concert with their state agencies—to improve access to work support programs. ASAP resources will allow advocates to bring a deeper focus to their administrative advocacy, helping them promote state-specific solutions that reduce barriers to benefit access for low-income workers.  CLASP looks forward to supporting these advocates and to sharing lessons learned through this initiative with others around the country.

ASAP Grantees:

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia

Hunger Free Colorado

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

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