Minnesota is now the 20th state in the nation to allow the maximum eligibility for federal SNAP benefits. Hunger-fighting groups say it comes at a crucial time, as households struggle with rising grocery costs.
The end of the legislative session drew attention mostly to what Minnesota lawmakers didn’t finalize, but they did agree on raising the gross-income threshold for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s now 200% of the federal poverty level or slightly more than $46,000 a year for a family of three.
Peter Woitock, the government relations specialist for the group Hunger Solutions, said some households just above the eligibility line might have seen an extra bump in pay, but inflation still makes it hard to afford food.
“We’re starting to see a ‘hunger cliff,’ and many people experiencing that,” he said. “And so, this is one partial solution that can help out some of those families that would then be eligible.”
He said it also comes as a number of temporary COVID-relief programs to address food insecurity start to wind down. The group noted that some people had missed SNAP eligibility by less than $100. Senate Republicans wanted to add work verifications, but opponents of that idea argued it would have been an added burden to those already facing hardships.
In southern Minnesota, Shari Koll, who manages the Springfield Area Food Shelf, said raising the income level for eligibility also could help ease the pressure local pantries are facing.
“What we’re finding is that there are more people starting to come,” she said, “and when they come, they tell us how expensive things are in the grocery store.”
She said they’ve gone from serving around 20 clients per month to 60. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said grocery costs rose nearly 11% from April last year to this year. Meanwhile, those who are newly eligible for SNAP benefits can apply through the Minnesota Department of Human Services. SNAP participants receive EBT cards to use at local grocery stores.
Mike Moen writes for the Minnesota News Connection.
I’m a senior and receive less than 15000 per year on social security! Out of that I pay rent and utilities medical and gas. They gave me a benefit of $11 fir food! You need to do a story on that! What can I do with $11 for a months worth of food?