Refugees in the United States can access many federal and state supportive programs upon arrival. One of those programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides funding to assist eligible, low-income families to purchase food each month based on household income and size. For more information on the funding amounts supplied per household, see the updated 2018 Income Eligibility Standards. Although SNAP is federally funded, states have some flexibility to tailor the program to best meet their local communities’ specific needs.
As a refugee employment specialist, you need a solid working knowledge of the SNAP program and how employment income affects this benefit in order to accurately calculate client self-sufficiency and to educate your clients about the changes they can anticipate upon starting work. The SNAP State Options Report provides specific information on how your state’s SNAP program is executed, and can help you identify changes from previous years and make comparisons to other states’ SNAP programming. The October 2016 report is the most recent edition, and you can view past reports on the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website in order to make the comparisons with previous years.
The SNAP State Options Report is broken into two sections. Both sections highlight the same 27 categories of program options, such as work requirements and disqualification policies, reporting systems used, and availability of online SNAP applications. Here is how to use each report section:
- National Option Profiles (p. 2 – 28) show visual map comparisons of how state programs operate. This section also provides explanations of the different SNAP program options, such as defining “Simplified Income and Resources” and clarifying how SNAP certification workflow and case management differ among states.
- State Agency Profiles (p. 29 – 81) show state-by-state charts of SNAP information. This section is most helpful in seeing a snapshot of how your state’s SNAP program is set up.
The National Option Profiles demonstrate the various aspects of each option that the state agency profile highlights in section two of the report. For example, one option highlights the Work Requirements and Disqualification Policy on page 19. This allows one to see the specifics on the national minimum requirement, how each state exceeds the requirements, and requirements of termination from SNAP. This information is crucial when looking at specific state information in section two, State Agency Profiles, because each option is not provided with definitions.
For the purpose of this review, two states (Arizona and New Jersey) were chosen as examples to reflect how the report can be used.
In section one, the map on page 19 shows which states fall under which category of disqualification policy. The State of Arizona chose that the entire household could be disqualified from SNAP based on becoming ineligible for benefits along with the regulatory minimum. The “minimum periods set by law are 1 month for the first instance, 3 months for the second, and 6 months for the third.” While the state of New Jersey however, chose only the regulatory minimum.
For section two:
On page 31, one can look at the SNAP State Agency Profile for Arizona. State-specific information includes:
- SNAP program is administered by the state rather than individual counties in AZ. (Identified in the Program Administration option)
- Arizona households can apply for SNAP and TANF with one application in some cases. (Identified in the Joint Processing – TANF option)
- All household income and deductions are counted toward SNAP eligibility, even if the household includes ineligible non-citizens who cannot receive SNAP benefits. (Identified in the Treatment of Income and Deductions of Ineligible Non-Citizens option)
- Clients in AZ can apply and recertify their SNAP eligibility using an online application. (Identified in the Online Application option).
On page 60, one can look at the SNAP State Agency Profile for New Jersey. Examples of information found are:
- SNAP program is administered by the county rather than the state in NJ. (Identified in the Program Administration option)
- New Jersey households can apply for SNAP and TANF with one application in some cases. (Identified in the Joint Processing – TANF option)
- All household income and deductions are counted toward SNAP eligibility, even if the household includes ineligible non-citizens who cannot receive SNAP benefits, with the exception of prorated SNAP months. (Identified in the Treatment of Income and Deductions of Ineligible Non-Citizens option)
- Clients in NJ can apply for their SNAP eligibility using an online application. (Identified in the Online Application option).
Be sure to check out what options your state chooses and how they implement the policies. You can find more SNAP information and further research here.
Questions on how to use the report or access data? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.