Categorized | Health

State expanding monthly nutrition benefits


As part of the Lingle-Aiona Administration’s efforts to maximize federal funding, the Department of Human Services that residents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will gain a 13.6 percent boost in their monthly cash benefits starting April 1.

DHS is also 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. 

About 110,000 Hawaii residents currently receive food aid. In fiscal year 2008, SNAP helped put food on the table for approximately 47,545 families each month.

“During these challenging economic times, we urge everyone who is eligible for SNAP to take advantage of this valuable nutrition benefit,” 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 per 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 increase in SNAP benefits is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed last month by President Barack Obama. This $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.

To help more residents enroll in SNAP, DHS plans to raise the income limit to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level – the maximum allowed by federal law – and eliminate the assets test for qualified households. In addition, DHS wants to provide five months of transitional SNAP benefits to individuals who successfully exit the welfare rolls because their incomes have grown.

Hawaii’s nutrition program has received numerous accolades from the USDA since 2003, including more than $3.5 million in bonuses for having one of the most accurate payment rates in the nation and for increasing access to qualified residents. 

In October, the USDA presented DHS with a high-performance bonus of $462,480 for having the nation’s fourth-best participation rate in the nutrition program and for being number-one in improving participation of eligible residents.

— Find out more:

Department of Human Services SNAP:…

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