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Indiana's State Association of Food Banks

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Category: SNAP

Hoosier Lawmakers Could Remove SNAP Ban

Indiana's food banks provide meals to more than 1 million people each year. (feedingindianashungry.org)

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers are considering several bills this legislative session dealing with hunger issues in Indiana.

Thursday, the Senate is expected to vote on SB 9, which would remove a lifetime SNAP benefit ban on anyone who’s been convicted on felony drug charges.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, says it was put into place as part of welfare reform legislation in the 90s but it really hurts those who make a mistake and end up in prison, because once they’re released they can’t always find a job, and aren’t able to receive help buying food.

Weikert Bryant says Indiana is one of the few states that has not removed the ban.

“Within the last two years, the states of Alaska, Texas, Alabama and Georgia have changed their policies away from that lifetime ban, and we’ve seen most other states do that as well because it doesn’t serve the purpose that it was intended,” she points out.

Weikert Bryant says people just getting out of prison make around $10,000 a year, but in Indiana the minimum amount needed for a single person to be considered self sufficient is more than $18,000 annually.

A bill heard recently in committee is SB 154, which would eliminate the asset test that a SNAP recipient must pass to be eligible for benefits.

Weikert Bryant says that regulation makes it nearly impossible for people to put anything aside so they can pull themselves out of poverty.

“If you have any sort of savings or some retirement account, some other types of savings, if you have a pre-paid burial plot, you have to sell or get rid of those assets, or spend them down, in order to be eligible for SNAP benefits, even if you have no income at all,” she points out.

Weikert Bryant calls the SNAP program one of the most well run, efficient and effective anti-hunger programs in the country.

She says food banks are providing meals to 1.1 million Hoosiers and they’re still having trouble meeting everyone’s needs.

Other bills she and other advocates are keeping an eye on this legislative session have to do with healthy food financing programs to help get fruits and vegetables to areas known as food deserts in the state, and a program to help food banks to buy Indiana-grown products.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN

2017 State Legislative Agenda Gaining Momentum

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry is committed to enhancing the quality of life for our clients through access to safe, nutritious food and other vital necessities. One in six Hoosiers is food insecure. Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports legislation and administrative policies which recognize the needs of the more than 1.1 million Hoosiers Indiana food banks serve and increase the accessibility of nutritious food options to promote health, educational attainment, and workforce success for those in need.


Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports investment in healthy, Hoosier grown food through the Farms to Food Banks program funded through the ISDA.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry asks for $300,000 in year one of the biennial budget and $500,000 in year two, to be spent on Indiana grown and produced food to help Hoosiers at risk of hunger through the food bank network.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports removing barriers to public assistance enrollment and administration to ensure that programs that assist food bank clients are provided to those eligible for the assistance in the most efficient and cost effective way possible. We oppose establishing any additional barriers to public assistance eligibility or access or utilization.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports the removal of a ban on receiving SNAP benefits by individuals with a past felony drug conviction.

Since welfare reform in 1996, individuals convicted of a felony which has as an element the possession, use, or distribution of a controlled substance are ineligible for SNAP benefits under federal law unless a state opts out of this requirement. Indiana is one of only 7 states still operating under a lifetime ban, since Texas and Alabama altered state public policies in 2015 and Georgia and Alaska followed in 2016.

Additionally, SNAP bans do not apply to any other types of felony convictions. Because women are the primary recipients of SNAP and women of color are more likely to get caught up in the racial disparities of the criminal justice system, the bans disproportionally affect children of color and their mothers.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports the elimination of state SNAP asset limits through the enforcement of broad-based categorical eligibility.

In Indiana, a SNAP applicant household must have less than $2250 in assets ($3250 if the household contains a senior or individual with a disability) to be eligible. Assets include bank accounts, cash, real estate, personal property, vehicles not used for household transportation, retirement accounts, health savings accounts, education savings accounts, and individual development accounts. The household’s home and surrounding lot, household goods and personal belongings, defined benefit pensions and life insurance policies are not counted as assets in the SNAP program. Personal savings and assets pull families out of poverty and move them toward self-sufficiency. Asset limits adversely affect the recently unemployed who retain assets that must be spent down and seniors on fixed incomes.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports legislative review on successes of job connection for unemployed SNAP recipients with arbitrary time limits for nutrition benefits.

Since welfare reform in 1996, SNAP requires all recipients who are able to work to by government definition (despite existing physical and mental impediments) do so unless there is an exemption. So-called able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) who are financially eligible to receive SNAP benefits must meet special work requirements in addition to the general requirement to maintain eligibility.

ABAWDs can only receive SNAP nutrition assistance for 3 months in 3 years if the special requirements are not met. Outcome reporting from the IMPACT program would enable legislators to review the efficacy of the employment training and job placement program, whether it has assisted recipients to come off the program, and the impact on the charitable sector to provide services for individuals who have become ineligible for nutrition assistance and remain unemployed or underemployed.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports public policy proposals that will bring healthy food options to food insecure Hoosiers.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports healthy food financing programs that empower food banks and pantries to build capacity for perishable items.

Food bank clients struggle to afford and access food. 85 percent of food bank client households purchase inexpensive, unhealthy food because they cannot afford healthier options. About a third of households report watering down food or drinks to make what they have last longer, including infant formula. Some grow produce. About two-thirds of client households have received help from family and friends, and more than 40 percent have sold or pawned personal property to do what they can to provide enough food for their families.

Hoosier food bank clients make trade-offs regularly:
• 77% choose between paying for food or utilities;
• 79% between food and transportation;
• 63% between food and housing.

Notably, nearly half of client households have incorporated charitable food assistance into their monthly food budgets. Emergency food assistance programs allow clients to address core food expenses so that limited income can be allocated elsewhere.

Food deserts are a part of the larger problems of hunger and healthy food access.

Food banks have developed innovative strategies to bring fresh produce and other nutritious foods into food deserts which include mobile pantries, trucks that drive out to communities that lack access to traditional food pantries or retail and distribute food. Additionally, there are roughly 1,800 charities already operating around the state that, with a modest grant or loan, could increase cold storage space or purchase mobile refrigeration to provide additional produce to assist Hoosier families.

Join the Conversation During Older Americans Month to #SolveSeniorHunger

May is OldSenior SNAP_USAer Americans Month! The appreciation month for seniors is an annual event dating back to
1963 when President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month. It was later renamed Older Americans Month (OAM) and every president since Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation that the entire nation pay tribute to older persons and their contributions to our communities.

The 2016 OAM theme is Blaze a Trail. The Administration for Community Living is raising awareness about important issues facing older adults and highlight the ways that older Americans are advocating for themselves, their peers and their communities.

The Feeding America nationwide network of food banks serves seven million seniors, the 1 in 12 seniors who face hunger in our country. Additionally, nearly 750,000 seniors volunteer each month at Feeding America network food pantries and meal programs across the country.

Food insecurity is particularly detrimental to seniors because of their unique nutritional needs related to aging and medical conditions. As such, we know seniors facing hunger are at increased risk for chronic health conditions like depression (60%), heart attack (53%), asthma (52%) and congestive heart failure (40%).

Through thoughtful and innovative programs designed to address the special and unique challenges that seniors face, the Feeding America network provides 563 million meals to seniors (age 60+) each year.

Charitable food assistance alone cannot solve senior hunger. The federal nutrition programs that reach seniors, including SNAP, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and senior congregate and home-delivered meals are critical supports for low-income seniors facing hunger.

This year, Feeding America and partner organizations have come together to shine a light on the fact that seniors, more than any other age group, do not take advantage of SNAP benefits. Nationally, only 41 percent of seniors who are eligible to receive SNAP are actually enrolled in the program, compared to the larger population where 83 percent of individuals who are eligible are taking advantage of benefits. In Indiana it’s even lower; only 33 percent of eligible seniors are participating in SNAP. During Older Americans Month 2016, we’re joining together to help #SolveSeniorHunger by closing the Senior SNAP Gap. Senior SNAP gap state-level information is available thanks to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Together, we can give back to those who have given us so much of their time, hard work and wisdom. Join us in raising awareness for older Americans who struggle with hunger, so we can work toward solving senior hunger.

You can get involved in Older Americans Month in four key ways:

  • Join the #SolveSeniorHunger conversation by sharing stories of senior hunger
  • Share your state’s Senior SNAP Gap data to spread the word
  • Tweet or message your Members of Congress to help close the Senior SNAP Gap
  • Take a Solve Senior Hunger selfie and post it to social media with #SolveSeniorHunger to show your support

Visit org/SolveSeniorHunger to learn more about the issue and find resources to help raise awareness.

BILLS TO HELP HUNGRY HOOSIERS BEING HEARD THIS MONTH

 

Thousands of Hoosiers aren't getting enough to eat because they can't qualify for SNAP benefits.

Thousands of Hoosiers aren’t getting enough to eat because they can’t qualify for SNAP benefit. Indiana lawmakers are tackling a couple of bills this short legislative session that have to do with the access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, says there are thousands of Hoosiers without enough food because they can’t get help.

Indiana law says anyone convicted of a drug offense is not eligible to collect SNAP benefits regardless of how little money they have. Bryant says many of them are mothers just being released from jail.

“They may be taking custody of their children, they may be trying to keep their families together, but they can’t get access to enough food to feed their families and it has a definite impact of family stability,” she says.

House Bill 1078 would remove the stipulation that anyone convicted of drug offenses would not be allowed to receive SNAP benefits. Another bill that may come up next week is Senate Bill 377. It would remove some of the restrictions placed on people about how much money they can have saved up in order to qualify for the SNAP program.

Bryant says right now a family can’t have more than $2,250 in assets. That excludes their home, pension benefits or life insurance policies.

“Problem with that is it discourages families from saving,” she says. “And helping them move themselves out of poverty and into self sufficiency.”

Bryant says food banks and pantries across Indiana feed 1.1 million people a year. She says providing food to the needy means they don’t have to make a choice of using what little money they have to eat, or to keep the heat on in their homes.

“If a family has access to SNAP benefits, which are spent only on food, it frees up some of their other income to be able to pay that utility bill or to pay that rent,” Bryant says.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN

 

Updated SNAP Income Eligibility Guidelines Now Available

Each federal fiscal year (October 1-September 30), the United States Department of Agriculture publishes new income eligibility guidelines for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program based on the snapfederal poverty guidelines.

Find a flyer here to print and share with clients explaining the application process and containing the updated income guidelines.

FSSA Announces EBT Temporary System Outage

Temporary outage of the Hoosier Works EBT system on Saturday night September 26th and Sunday morning September 27th

Information courtesy of Indiana FSSA, EBT Temporary System Outage

Why is there going to be an EBT system outage?

The Hoosier Works Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system will be conducting a system transition on Saturday night, September 26, at 11:00 p.m. EDT causing a temporary system outage. Hoosier Works is the system Indiana uses to deliver Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. This outage affects all SNAP/TANF EBT cardholders.ebt

Our current provider, JP Morgan Chase, has decided to get out of the business of providing EBT card services. Therefore, Indiana must move our EBT business to a new provider (Xerox), and making that change requires a temporary system outage.

Will I be able to use my EBT card?

During the temporary system outage, EBT cardholders will not be able to make SNAP purchases or access TANF benefits at any grocery stores or ATMs. EBT cardholders should plan to do their grocery shopping and/or make cash withdrawals before or after the transition period. SNAP and TANF benefits are expected to be available Sunday afternoon, September 27, 12:30 p.m. EDT after the system transition is complete.

Will my benefits change?

No. All SNAP and TANF  benefits will remain the same.

Will I be getting a new EBT card?

No. SNAP/TANF clients will continue to use their current EBT cards after the transition.

Will my PIN for my EBT card change?

No. The PIN will remain the same for all EBT cardholders.

Will the system transition change where I can use my card?

The system transition will not change where EBT cards can be used. After the transition is complete, TANF recipients will be able to withdraw cash benefits at ATMs with the Quest logo. If the ATM charges a surcharge, the fees will be stated by the ATM before being deducted.

Will the customer service website change?

Yes. The new customer website will be www.ebt.acs-inc.com. However, the customer service phone number will remain 1-877-768-5098.