Simplified SNAP renewals for Hoosier seniors, people with disabilities passes legislature
About one in 10 Hoosier households report difficulties getting enough healthy food with consistency. Nationally, the struggle to get food is particularly pronounced for elderly folks who live alone.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – also known as SNAP or food stamps – can help them get food on the table. But requirements to repeatedly reapply for SNAP can be difficult.
“It's not like a huge amount of money, they're getting less than $30 a month, usually. It's very helpful for them to have. They can get fresh produce and things like that,” said Kristen LaEace, Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging CEO, during House committee testimony in favor of the bill. “But there needs to be a better cost benefit to engage older adults in doing this application process.”
This week, legislators gave the governor the opportunity to sign a bill alleviating some of that difficulty for about a third of the almost 300,000 Hoosier households using SNAP each month. Senate Bill 334 would simplify the application for SNAP for people who are elderly or have a disability and allow them to renew their application every three years.
Current law requires all SNAP users to re-certify every two years by phone, online or in-person.
LaEace said that can make the program difficult for seniors living alone who lack transportation and broadband or have diminished hearing.
“So if we are able to extend the amount of time in which they have to go through this process, we're more likely to say hey, this only has to happen once every three years. We're here to walk you [though] it,” she said “We help them through that application process. And so it has the added benefit not only of reducing administrative burden for the state it helps us out too.”
Emily Bryant is the executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, a network of Feeding America food banks in the state.
“The relationship between high rates of disability and high food insecurity is present in counties across the U.S.,” Bryant said. “Senate Bill 334 seeks to connect … more seniors and Hoosiers with disabilities to SNAP with less opportunity to roll off the program.”
READ MORE: Indiana food banks welcome federal SNAP benefit boost, but say it's not enough
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues throughout the legislative session. And follow along with our bill tracker.
Low-income, older Hoosiers, particularly in rural areas, say SNAP can be “complicated” and provide “limited” benefits, a 2020 Indiana University study found.
The bill’s author, Sen. Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington), emphasized the bill doesn’t affect eligibility or the application process for non-elderly, non-disabled Hoosiers.
“This just eases the application process for a vulnerable population. And it's a program that is covered 100 percent with federal dollars and perhaps will even be a cost savings in the administration of the program at the state level,” Yoder said. “Food secure individuals with disabilities and seniors are healthier Hoosiers, physically and mentally”
According to the latest available federal data from 2020, only 33 percent of Indiana's SNAP households included someone who is elderly or has a disability. And the average monthly SNAP benefit for such families was less than $200 a month while households with children averaged about double that. The bill also wouldn’t change those or the maximum benefit amounts.
So, for most SNAP recipients, this bill doesn’t directly change much.
Under this bill, seniors and people with disabilities on SNAP would still have to report their income to the state annually or whenever their income changes.
Indiana senators passed SB 334 unanimously during the first half of the session. The House passed the same bill Tuesday almost unanimously, with five Republicans voting against.
Those five lawmakers did not explain their opposition to the bill on the House floor.
Adam is our labor and employment reporter. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.