New York City

United Way of New York City warns against changes to SNAP

The organization expressed concern over Congress’ decision to impose work requirements on adults between the ages of 51 and 55 to receive full benefits.

A customer shops at the produce section of a Manhattan market on Sept. 29, 2023

A customer shops at the produce section of a Manhattan market on Sept. 29, 2023 Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

United Way of New York City has sounded the alarm over new requirements being placed on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The concerns are over Congress’ decision to increase work requirements on able bodied adults between the ages 50 and 55 to be eligible for full SNAP benefits after the latest reauthorization of the Farm Bill. 

“Congress’ decision to impose strict work requirements on adults between ages 51-55 places an unjust administrative burden on individuals who are already struggling to make ends meet, Cheryl Huber, vice president of food and benefits access at United Way, told New York Nonprofit Media. “During  the upcoming Farm Bill negotiations, we must protect and expand SNAP, not limit access, because too many New York City families are in need.”

SNAP – formerly known as ‘food stamps’ – provides food assistance for nearly 1.8 million New Yorkers with low incomes including families, people who are aging, and people with disabilities. The program allows families and individuals access to necessary nutrients and allows them to supplement the cost of their diet. SNAP is the nation’s largest and most effective anti-hunger program and allows people with low incomes to free up household resources for other basic needs such as rent, medical care and utilities.

The latest changes to SNAP were made by Congress in its negotiations to reauthorize the Farm Bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation that sets federal policies governing food and agriculture programs. Congress reauthorizes the legislations every five years, with the current bill having expired on Sept. 30 and the reauthorization process currently underway. That means more changes in SNAP benefit requirements could come.

Congress’ changes to the work requirements come under a compromise debt ceiling package known as the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023. Some of the main points of this deal were broadenings in work requirements. In regards to SNAP benefits, prior to these changes, able bodied adults without dependents who are between ages 18 and 49 could only receive food stamps for three months out of every three years unless they work or participate in other activities for at least 20 hours a week. However, with the new broadening of work requirements this now applies to those between the ages of 18 and 54, extending the requirements to those in the age range of 50-54. This could lead to the exemption of older adults from receiving SNAP benefits. 

The Congressional Budget Office inlate April released an estimate of the budgetary affects of the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, which outlined the specific effects that the legislation will have on people that rely on SNAP. “CBO estimates that expanding the work requirements to adults ages 50 to 55 would reduce direct spending by $11 billion over the 2023-2033 period,” said the report. However, “about 275,000 people, on average, would lose benefits each month because they fail to meet the requirement and are not otherwise exempt. Another 19,000 people would receive smaller monthly benefits because of new income they earn from work under the requirement.” 

The report also highlights that “states can waive the SNAP work requirement for people who live in that area without sufficient jobs and, at the state’s discretion, can use a limited number of months exemptions for people who otherwise would be subject to the requirement. Under current law, states can carry over any unused discretionary exemptions indefinitely.”

However, the new legislation tightens the share of unused exemptions that states can carry over every year. “CBO estimates that the provision that prevents states from carrying over unused discretionary exemptions for more than one year would change direct spending by an insignificant amount – less than $500,000 in total over the 2023-2033 period.”

United Way, an organization dedicated to helping low income New Yorkers make ends meet and lead economically mobile lives for the past 85 years, works to maximize its impact by coordinating and aligning organizations, companies, local government, and New Yorkers to help families live better and healthier lives.

 “We inform policy to ensure that all New Yorkers, including those served by New York City agencies and public programs, have dignified access to culturally appropriate, nutritious, healthy food that adheres to dietary restrictions and preferences,” states the organization’s mission statement on food security. “United Way of New York City understands that food security is an income, affordability and access issue for NYC families. Our advocacy goal is to harness system level actors to drive food security from emergency safety net to sustaining incomes. Expanded and streamlined access to benefits and income supports like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a critical part of our advocacy.” 

The organization reviews the reauthorization process of the Farm Bill as a part of this advocacy. 

“United Way of New York City recently found in our “True Cost of Living” report that half of New Yorkers cannot afford basic expenses like childcare, transportation, housing, and food,” Huber said. “While increasing the maximum benefits a family can receive through SNAP is critical to address the true cost of living and the high costs of food, we should not be limiting benefits for others in order to do so.”