The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, was introduced as a pilot program during the Great Depression from 1939 through 1943. The program ended when the conditions that brought it into being, widespread unemployment and unmarketable food surpluses, no longer existed. In 1961 the program was revived as a pilot project and by 1964 it had expanded to 22 states.
In 1964 the Food Stamp Act passed creating a permanent food program. Its purpose was to strengthen the U.S. agricultural economy, as well as to increase the food purchasing power of low-income households to improve levels of nutrition. Under this Act families were required to purchase vouchers, receiving coupons of a higher value than their cash contribution. By July 1, 1974, the program was operating nationwide.
In 1977 the Food Stamp Reform Act passed, which made the program more accessible to the low-income by eliminating the requirement that participants pay for a portion of their food stamps.
In 2008, the Food Stamp Program officially changed its name to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and renamed the Food Stamp Act of 1977 to Food and Nutrition Act of 2008. The federal government is allowing state agencies to use state-specific program names. In August 2012, NYS officially changed the name of the Food Stamp program to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
WHO ADMINISTERS THE PROGRAM
SNAP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); within the USDA the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is responsible for establishing the regulations that carry out the law and providing states with direction in running the program. The Food and Nutrition Act requires the USDA to have uniform national standards of eligibility throughout the entire country, except for separate income standards for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
In New York State, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) oversees the local administration of the SNAP Program. New York State policy is detailed in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program Source Book and can be accessed at http://otda.ny.gov/programs/snap/SNAPSB.pdf. Most administrative functions are delegated to the counties throughout NYS. In New York City, the Human Resource Administration (HRA) has local administrative responsibility for the program, and is the point of access for NYC residents. In other counties the local departments of social services are the point of access. Local SNAP offices process the applications and determine whether households qualify for the benefit.
The federal government pays 100% of SNAP benefits. Federal and state governments share the administrative costs, with both the federal and state governments contributing 50%.
Summary of the SNAP Program
The SNAP Program is designed to enable households with limited incomes increase their ability to purchase food. Eligible households receive a benefit card with the amount of SNAP benefits encoded on the card; each month the household receives the SNAP benefit. Eligibility and benefit levels are based on household size, income, and other factors, which are detailed below under Qualifying for SNAP. Income guidelines and benefit amounts are annually adjusted in October.
In NYC, households applying for SNAP benefits only may submit an application in person at a local SNAP Home Center, by mail, fax, or through the Internet. Applicants must participate in an eligibility interview, either in person at a SNAP Home Center, or over the phone, and provide documentation to verify their eligibility. Households must periodically prove their continued eligibility for SNAP benefits through a recertification process.
Other Benefits under the SNAP Program
If a household is experiencing a food emergency, SNAP benefits may be issued to the applying household before full SNAP eligibility has been established. See below Applying for SNAP, Emergency SNAP Benefits – Expedited SNAP Processing, for a description of expedited issuance.
TRANSITIONAL BENEFIT ALTERNATIVE
Five months of SNAP benefits are provided to families with children transitioning off New York’s Cash Assistance program. See below, Transitional Benefit Alternative, for a description of this benefit, application and recertification procedures.
NEW YORK STATE NUTRITION IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (NYSNIP)
NYSNIP automatically provides SNAP benefits to all Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who receive SSI benefits in the “living alone” category without the SSI recipient having to go through the SNAP application, interview or verification process. See below, New York State Nutrition Improvement Project, for a description of this benefit, application and recertification procedures.
EAT SMART NEW YORK
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program maintains a nutrition education program called Eat Smart New York. The program is free and is available to SNAP participants and those eligible for SNAP benefits. See below, Eat Smart New York.