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It’s a SNAP

The Rhode Island Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program (formerly called Food Stamps) that helps 31 million Americans pay for food each month. 

As more and more hard working individuals and families face difficult choices, such as between purchasing groceries or paying bills, SNAP is a way to reduce food insecurity. 

Unexpected day-to-day circumstances have put more and more Americans in vulnerable, often unforeseen positions. The good news is that help is available through SNAP - where everyone has the opportunity to eat right, even when money is tight.

According to Rhode Island Department of Human Service officials, last December,  participation in SNAP was up for another month.  There are now 126,870 individuals participating in the SNAP program in the Ocean State.  This is an increase of 4,034 since November of 2009.  1146 households applied for SNAP in November 2009 using the Online Application – a significant decrease from the Online Applications in October. 

Since over half of these applications were either processed or archived with no eligibility, AARP and other advocates are working with Department of Human Services to attempt to determine why most online applications never achieve approval.  One problem reported by Department personnel is that, due to lay-offs and the hiring freeze to balance the state budget, the “workload is crushing”.

SNAP is included in the plan to help our economy recover.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides an additional $300  million for states to administer SNAP.  SNAP also provides a significant boost to local economies. Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates nearly twice as much ($9.20) in total community spending. Serving over 1 in 10 Americans in November 2008, SNAP’s role among those most in need has never been more relevant.

How does SNAP help?

SNAP helps to pay part of your monthly grocery bill (in 2007, the average benefit for seniors was $72/month for individuals and $90 per household).

You get a special debit card to use at most grocery stores, certain senior centers, farmer’s markets and meal delivery services (such as Meals on Wheels). 

You swipe the card just like a credit card. The cost of the groceries you buy is deducted from your account balance, and your new benefits are added automatically each month.

Who Should Apply?

Any older American who needs help paying for groceries.

Find everything you need to get started in any state at AARP’s Benefits QuickLINK Website.  AARP’s SNAP Map is a one-stop resource. 

How do you get benefits?

Although SNAP is the federal name, states may have their own names and rules for food assistance.

Normally you must file an application form, have a face-to-face interview, and provide proof (verification) of certain information, such as income and expenses. However, some states may waive the face-to-face interview if all members of a household are 60 and older.

Social Security and SSI recipients may receive food stamp applications at the Social Security office, and Social Security staff can help SSI participants complete applications.

Some people think that SNAP isn’t worth the paperwork. But it is. Signing up is easy. It just takes a few minutes to apply online or fill out a form and mail it.