In New York, SNAP benefits extended to low-income college students

Nearly 75,000 low-income college students in New York will be eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to an expansion of the program announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday.

The state will also roll out a simplified application process to encourage greater enrollment among older adults and people with disabilities, part of a comprehensive push by the state to reduce food insecurity, the governor said.

“From the community college student seeking to advance their career to the senior living on a fixed income, food insecurity and hunger are a reality for a wide breadth of low-income New Yorkers and we have an obligation to help them during their time in need,” Cuomo said. “These measures will help a greater number of individuals and families access benefits that will prevent them from facing the dire reality of food insecurity.”

Income-eligible students enrolled at least half-time at State University of New York and City University of New York may now access the benefits.

Additionally, income-eligible individuals attending any of the 10 Educational Opportunity Centers in New York state and enrolled at least half-time in a career and technical education program, remedial courses, basic adult education, literacy, or English as a second language will be also be included in this new policy. Previously, these students did not qualify for SNAP assistance, unless they met certain criteria such as working at least 20 hours per week or caring for a child, or were unable to work.

This policy change adds another criteria that would allow certain college students and EOC participants to meet the student eligibility requirement for SNAP. At SUNY, about 31,000 students are in those programs and may be eligible. At CUNY, about 42,000 students may be eligible.

“By expanding eligibility for SNAP benefits, we are telling students your course work is vitally important and we want you to stay on track to get the credentials you need,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said,

The state is also seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer a simplified application for SNAP benefits in an effort to encourage greater enrollment among eligible elderly or disabled individuals. SNAP applicants on a fixed income or with limited financial resources can complete a single sheet application, front and back, instead of the current nine-page form.

About 70 percent of eligible seniors and disabled individuals are enrolled to receive benefits. The length and complexity of the forms to apply for SNAP, the governor’s office noted, may dissuade some who are eligible from seeking the assistance.

At SUNY, in addition to the expansion of and access to food pantries, a task force helped establish and grow innovative intervention programs on campuses, including mobile food trucks, local farm crop sharing, a subsidized on-campus grocery store, and programming that allows students to “pay” a campus parking ticket in food donations to an on-campus pantry.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we continue to help an increasing number of low-income individuals and families avoid the crushing feeling of food insecurity,” Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Mike Hein said. “These changes will help numerous college students and older New Yorkers qualify for SNAP, ensuring they can more easily afford healthy, nutritious food.”

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