Monday, March 19, 2012

Changes to SNAP

Asset Testing for Food Stamps to Begin May 1

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP) in Pennsylvania, better known as food stamps, will implement some significant changes to eligibility guidelines.

Beginning May 1, the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) plans to reinstate asset testing for people who want to receive food stamps. Asset testing in the state had been removed from the guidelines in 2008 because of the economic effects of the recession.

New SNAP Guidelines

Households with residents age 59 or younger with assets above $5,500 will no longer be eligible to receive food stamps. Households with residents age 60 or above, or those with disabled individuals, will be limited to assets totaling $9,000.

Household assets include cash on hand, cash in checking or savings accounts, and any stocks or bonds.

Not included as assets in the new guidelines are a home, your primary vehicle, pension plans from your work place, educational savings accounts, clothing or any jewelry you may own.

A second vehicle is exempt from the asset guidelines if its value is less than $4,550.

Nutrition Assistance

Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food stamps were created in 1964 as part of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” The program was designed to offer “nutrition assistance” to low-income households with the goal of providing all people with a low-cost, nutritionally-adequate diet. By 2004, all states has adopted the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card as way to administer the program to recipients.

Your Right to Appeal

You have the right to ask DPW for a hearing to appeal a decision of or failure to act by the Department which affects your benefits or that you believe is unfair or incorrect. You may file the appeal at your local county assistance office (CAO). At the appeal hearing, you may represent yourself, or someone else, such as a lawyer, friend or relative may represent you.

If you appeal, you may have an agency conference scheduled before the hearing to help resolve the issue sooner.

NWLS May Be Able to Help

If you want help with your appeal to DPW regarding SNAP, call our intake unit to see if you qualify for civil legal aid with this issue. You can call the NWLS intake unit (toll free) at 800-665-6957, or in Erie at 452-6957. The intake unit is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You can also apply for legal aid from NWLS online at www.nwls.org