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SNAP Monthly Allotment Reduced by FY18 COLAs

Are your clients coming to you with concerns that their monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps) benefit has decreased?

It’s not a mistake. Recent changes to the benefit configuration mean some people will receive a slightly reduced monthly allotment. Here’s what you need to know.

Why are some people receiving a lower SNAP benefit?

Each year, on Oct. 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adjusts SNAP maximum allotments, deductions, and income eligibility standards. These are based on annual cost of living adjustments, or COLAs.

At the same time, the USDA calculates SNAP benefits using what’s called the Thrifty Food Plan. The Thrifty Food Plan is the least expensive of four cost plans that budget what it costs to purchase a nutritious diet. The Thrifty Food Plan is calculated each month using data collected for the consumer price index (CPI).

While the overall CPI increased over the past 12 months, the costs of food on the Thrifty Food Plan decreased slightly, leading to a reduced SNAP benefit calculation. The changes will primarily affect those receiving either the maximum or minimum SNAP benefit amounts.

What’s the minimum SNAP benefit for this year?

The minimum benefit for a household with 1-2 people is $15/month, with slightly higher amounts in Alaska and Hawaii.

How can I help clients whose SNAP allotment has decreased?

If your clients qualify for SNAP and are aged 60+ or have a disability, make sure they are taking advantage of all the deductions for which they may be eligible. In particular, the medical expense deduction is a useful tool that enables households with seniors or disabled members to deduct allowable medical costs that are in excess of $35 a month. It is estimated that 55% of SNAP-eligible seniors could qualify for the medical expense deduction, but only 14% currently use it.

You can also check to see if clients are eligible for other food programs, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program or Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program. NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® tool screens for these and many other programs that help pay for food, prescriptions, utilities, and more.

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About Brandy Bauer

Brandy Bauer is Associate Director of NCOA's Center for Benefits Access, where she helps state agencies and community organizations connect low-income Medicare beneficiaries to benefits.