In a groundbreaking move, U.S. Representative Lori Trahan and Senator Edward J. Markey unveiled the Bridging the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Gap Act on Thursday, an ambitious legislative proposal aimed at broadening SNAP benefits for young adults, families, and individuals with regular medical expenses. The Act seeks to dismantle restrictive rules that have curtailed eligibility and benefit levels, offering a support to millions of Americans in need.
Among the key highlights of the proposed legislation is a significant financial boost for the food stamps beneficiaries, allowing working students aged 17 to 21 to continue receiving benefits under their families’ coverage. Moreover, the Bridging the SNAP Gap Act seeks to extend existing rules to include seniors and people with disabilities. These individuals will now be eligible for higher monthly benefits if they spend at least $35 each month on health-related expenses.
More money for the food stamps beneficiaries
According to the Bridging the SNAP Gap Act text, these are the new benefits to be introduced, if the act passes and gets approved. First, it will increase the student income exclusion age from 17 to 21 to enable young individuals to qualify for SNAP benefits while being part of their parent(s)’ household, without diminishing the total amount of SNAP benefits the family is eligible to receive.
Also, it will guarantee that all the SNAP recipients can access to additional if they have at least $35 of monthly medical expenses. Furthermore, it will cut down and streamline paperwork for the medical expense deduction floor, currently at $165 in 2023, with increases mirroring that of Medicare Part B rates.
This act is endorsed by mayor organizations that work against hunger in the United States, such as: Hunger Free America, Bread for the World, Share Our Strength, Alliance to End Hunger, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Project Bread, The Greater Boston Food Bank, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley Food Bank, Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester, and Worcester Food Bank.
Who qualifies for the SNAP benefits in 2023
Since the SNAP program is federal-run, individuals and households must meet certain nationwide-applying criteria, as follows:
- Gross monthly income limit: It’s the total household income before any deductions from the program, and must typically be equal to or below 130% of the poverty line. For example, for a family of three, the poverty line used to calculate SNAP benefits in the federal fiscal year 2023 is $1,920 per month. Therefore, 130%of the poverty line for a family of three amounts to $2,495 per month, approximately $29,940 per year. Larger families have a higher poverty line, while smaller families have a lower one.
- Net monthly income limit: It’s the household’s income after deductions are applied, and it must be at or below the poverty line.
- Household’s assets must fall below certain limits: households without a member aged 60 or older or who has a disability must have assets below $2,750, and households with such a member must posses assets of $4,250 or less. An asset is a resource that could be available to purchase food, such as bank accounts and their available amounts.
- Who is ineligible? There are certain categories of people who cannot receive SNAP benefits regardless of their income or assets. These include individuals who are on strike, those without a documented immigration status, some students attending college more than half-time. Also, certain immigrants with lawful presence could not request the food stamps.