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Petition to End SNAP Interview Requirements Gains Momentum

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Student and legal advocacy groups want the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reconsider the obligatory interview requirement for SNAP applicants to expedite the process. The National Student Legal Defense Network, Center for Law and Social Policy, and California Student Aid Commission lead the effort, alleging that the interview is unnecessary and prevents qualified people from receiving food aid. This proposal is under review by USDA.

File – A food shopper pushes a cart of groceries at a supermarket in Bellflower, Calif., on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. Student and legal advocacy groups are petitioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lift the interview requirement for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applicants to receive food aid. SNAP helps low-income families supplement their budgets so they can buy groceries, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages. An estimated 42 million Americans currently receive the benefits at an average of $212 per person or $401 per household. (AP Photo/Allison Dinner, File)

Advocacy Grows to Ease SNAP Application Process for Food Aid

By helping low-income families buy groceries, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages, SNAP is vital. Changes to the application procedure are significant since 42 million Americans get monthly benefits, averaging $212 per person or $401 per household.

A state agency must conduct a phone or in-person initial certification interview within 30 days following SNAP application submission. Advocacy organizations say this provision, which has been in place since 1978, needs to be revised and more bureaucratic.

While designed to comprehend a household’s situation better, the interview has become a barrier for many applicants, say the groups. According to 2021 California enrollment data, 31% of Los Angeles County SNAP applicants were denied benefits due to missed interviews, compared to 6% for eligibility issues.

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Push to Simplify SNAP Process Gains Momentum

The pandemic lowered interview and other SNAP standards, giving a unique perspective. The USDA encouraged states to use online or phone applications and let individuals stay on SNAP without reapplying for long periods. Instead of rising during the 2008 crisis, hunger levels remained steady in 2020.

Advocates say pandemic policy changes can be used to streamline and improve the process. They stress the necessity of preventing administrative delays from denying benefits. The petition seeks to debate the interview requirement and find ways to make SNAP applications easier and faster.

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