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Governor announces actions to increase access to food assistance for New Yorkers with disabilities

a man in a wheelchair selects goods on store shelves and makes purchases in a supermarket
Photo: Shutterstock

Governor Kathy Hochul announced changes aimed at encouraging more food-insecure older adults and disabled individuals to enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The changes include simplifying the SNAP application, extending the duration these households can receive benefits before needing to recertify, and eliminating the need for them to complete an interview during the recertification process.

“New York’s senior and disabled communities were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to food insecurity in some cases and exacerbating it in others,” Governor Hochul said. “Allowing easier access to SNAP benefits for these groups will help alleviate this stress. No one should have to wonder when their next meal will be and I am proud to take these steps to remove barriers that prevented older adults and disabled individuals on fixed incomes from accessing the food benefits that can help them to put food on the table.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which administers SNAP in New York, to offer a simplified application. This shortened application form can be used for both applying and recertifying for SNAP—easing and simplifying the process for qualified older and disabled adults. Households need only to complete a single sheet application, front and back, which greatly reduces the amount of time and effort required to apply or recertify for benefits.

Starting in December, eligible older New Yorkers can also now recertify their benefits for 36 months—12 months longer than the previous timeline for recertification. Additionally, applicants will no longer be required to complete an interview to recertify their benefits—frequently one of the greatest impediments to successful recertification.

Although New York leads the nation in SNAP participation among adults age 60 or older, the rate is still lower than the state’s overall average. About 70 percent of eligible older adultsand disabled individuals are enrolled to receive benefits, which is significantly lower than the statewide participation rate estimate of roughly 89 percent.

One leading reason proposed for this lower participation is the length and complexity of the form to apply for SNAP. The regular application includes nine pages of questions and information geared at determining a household’s eligibility. Because many older individuals and disabled individuals live on fixed incomes and generally experience far fewer household changes, much less information is required to verify their eligibility and calculate benefits.

Additionally, studies show that providing SNAP benefits for those 65 and older results in better health outcomes. There is a direct link between SNAP and decreased long term care placement, health costs, and emergency visits. Receiving SNAP benefits also enables those aged 65 and older to focus their limited resources on paying for other basic needs such as prescriptions and rent.

Office of Temporary and Disability Executive Deputy Commissioner Barbara C. Guinn said, “By making it easier to apply for and maintain their SNAP benefits, we can encourage a greater number of vulnerable New Yorkers put healthy, nutritious food on the table. I applaud Governor Hochul’s leadership in continuing to help even more households in the state access critical SNAP benefits.”

Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen said, “For older adults, food insecurity is associated with worsening chronic disease, illness, and debility, which is why nutrition has been a core focus of our pandemic response effort. Under the leadership of Governor Hochul, we’ve greatly expanded home-delivered models to overcome food access barriers. The Governor has also been a leader in maximizing SNAP benefits and supplemental emergency assistance for all New Yorkers facing hunger. The pandemic continues to demand that we remain nimble in getting help to those who need it most. I am proud to join Governor Hochul in delivering these important program changes to simplify the application process and ensure continuity of food assistance for older adults.”

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