Food aid recipients to get 13.6% jump in benefits


POSTED: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

About 110,000 Hawaii residents who receive food aid will get a 13.6 percent increase in their monthly benefit starting in April, according to state officials.

Residents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Hawaii Food Stamp Program, will get the increase as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed last month by President Barack Obama. 

The $787 billion economic stimulus package includes $20 billion to pay for the 13.6 percent SNAP benefit hike nationwide and to reimburse states for administrative costs associated with increased caseloads, according to the state Department of Human Services.

DHS officials also said they are working to raise income eligibility for SNAP to the maximum allowed by federal law, provide temporary food aid for people who successfully transition from welfare to employment, and expand outreach to enroll as many residents as possible.

SNAP, formerly known as the Hawaii Food Stamp Program, is administered by DHS and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state.

“During these challenging economic times, we urge everyone who is eligible for SNAP to take advantage of this valuable nutrition benefit,” said DHS Director Lillian Koller said. “Sometimes people are reluctant to apply because they mistakenly regard SNAP as welfare. SNAP is part of a national safety-net against hunger, in keeping with the USDA’s mission of improving the health and well-being of low-income people.”

Currently, a three-member household enrolled in SNAP receives a maximum of $725 a month in nutrition benefits. When the higher payments take effect in April, the same household will receive up to $824. The minimum benefit for one- or two-person households will increase from $22 to $25.

 The USDA is also mandating states to suspend a policy until Oct. 1, 2010, that limited benefits for jobless adults who are able-bodied and without dependents, state officials said. As long as these individuals comply with their employment and training programs, they are entitled to full SNAP benefits.

 To apply for nutrition assistance, residents can call DHS at  643-1643.