Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits saw an increase in benefits this month due to COVID-19.
The increase was due to the passage of the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2020.
As a result of the act, those who receive SNAP benefits will see an increase in benefits during the first six months of 2021.
According to DCFS, the federal legislation may also make more Louisianans eligible for SNAP by excluding both federal unemployment benefits and stimulus checks from consideration as income and expanding student eligibility.
The federal appropriations bill, signed on Dec. 27, 2020, included a provision increasing SNAP maximum allotments by roughly 15% for January through June 2021, in response to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Additional January benefits were loaded onto current Louisiana SNAP recipient EBT cards on Friday, January 8.
DCFS says that from February to June, extra benefits will be loaded at the same time as recipients' regular benefit amount on their regularly scheduled issuance date.
On Friday, January 22, President Joe Biden is expected to sign two Executive Orders that would boost the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first order Biden is expected to sign specifically targets COVID-19 aid. The order will ask the Department of Agriculture to expand SNAP benefits authorized by Congress to include those at the lowest income levels and increase benefits to families with children who would normally receive school lunches.
Read more, here.
Supplemental SNAP benefits were also loaded onto recipient EBT cards on Friday, January 8.
In December, DCFS is began a three-month process of transitioning its SNAP benefits schedule to distribute benefits more evenly throughout each month. Rather than receiving benefits during the 1st through 14th, DCFS says that SNAP households will soon receive them between the 1st and 23rd of each month.
The new regular schedule will go into effect in February 2021. DCFS says this will allow for more even stocking and staffing at grocery stores and more consistent access to a variety of foods for shoppers, as households typically do their shopping on or shortly after the day their benefits are issued.
See the new schedule, along with examples that help explain what it means for you: dcfs.louisiana.gov
Changes Affecting SNAP Eligibility
Other provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2021 may make more Louisianans eligible for SNAP.
Unlike the CARES Act in 2020, the latest legislation excludes the federal pandemic unemployment benefits ($300 weekly) from consideration as income or resources in determining SNAP eligibility. (State unemployment benefits would still be counted.) Receipt of federal unemployment benefits resulted in 44,165 (15.7%) of the 281,289 households who applied for SNAP between March and July of last year being denied food assistance, as the boost in unemployment benefits pushed those families over the income limit. Another 2,185 households who had been receiving SNAP saw their cases closed because of it.
This time, DCFS says that the additional federal benefits will not be counted. Stimulus checks, also known as Economic Impact Payments, will also be excluded from the eligibility calculation, just as they were with the first round of stimulus. In addition, eligibility for college students has been expanded to include those who are enrolled at least half-time and are either eligible to participate in work study or have an expected family contribution of $0 in the current academic year, as determined by the institution of higher education.
Previously, students from families with an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0 were not automatically eligible for SNAP. The new law changes that. Pending further guidance from FNS, DCFS says that students will need to provide either their FAFSA paperwork which includes their EFC or their proof of eligibility for work study to DCFS when applying for SNAP.
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