‘We’re scraping by’: hunger concerns spur calls for higher SNAP eligibility

MGN

Food insecurity is getting more attention these days, and some working families still have trouble meeting basic needs under mounting living expenses and aid eligibility being out of reach.

A Minnesota plan aims to close the gap. Minnesota is one of the states not at the maximum eligibility level for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Amber Lightfeather of Duluth raises five kids with her husband. While they both make more than $15 an hour, their income is not enough to offset rising rent and other key expenses. In having to turn to local food shelves for help, she wants policymakers to be mindful of the challenges.

“I think they should take into account actual expenses that people actually have to pay to keep a roof over their head,” Lightfeather contended.

Her family must pay for rising expenses while still not being eligible for SNAP benefits to buy more food. A House bill would raise the state’s income threshold of 165% of the federal poverty level to the maximum 200%.

While the plan does not have a connection, Senate Republicans have scrutinized government aid this session following a federal probe into the “Feeding Our Future” nonprofit.

A legislative fiscal note said because the proposed expansion is federally funded, the state would only incur minor expenses in updating and managing databases.

Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, the bill’s main sponsor, used to work in departments administering state and federal benefits and has seen too many families left out.

“This is an opportunity to help families who are on the cliff,” Noor asserted.

Noor added even with wages in some fields going up, higher costs for basic necessities keep many households closer to the poverty line. Lightfeather wondered how much longer families like hers can keep it all together.

“We’re scraping by, but if prices continue to go up, it might not take too long,” Lighfeather acknowledged. “There’s going to be a breaking point for a lot of people.”

Mike Moen is a writer for the Minnesota News Connection.