SNAP applications are slowest in these 5 states

SNAP food benefits help millions of families keep food on the table. In fact, the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) says SNAP is the nation’s most effective tool in fighting hunger. But it can only be effective if people receive the money they are entitled to. And unfortunately, some states have huge backlogs of applications to process.

Delays waiting for a response on a SNAP application can be more than frustrating and stressful. That’s why USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently wrote to 47 states and territories, urging them to improve their SNAP systems. Five states stood out as having the longest delays:

  1. Washington DC
  2. North Dakota
  3. New York
  4. Florida
  5. New Mexico

SNAP applications experience more delays in these states

When you apply for or renew SNAP food benefits, the idea is to receive a response within 30 days. If you have an urgent need, you may be eligible for expedited processing with a seven-day turnaround time. The USDA wants states to process 95% of applications within these timeframes. Worryingly, only a limited number of states are achieving this goal.

According to Secretary Vilsack’s letters, the following states are furthest behind:

It’s one thing to talk about statistics, but these numbers have a real impact on people’s lives and bank account balances. The CBPP estimates that the average benefit for a family of four is $713, while the the maximum is $973. This means some families are losing hundreds of dollars a week due to administrative delays.

What to do if your SNAP application is delayed

If you’re waiting for a response on a SNAP application or renewal, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, many people find themselves in similar situations. Do not give up. What’s important is finding ways to feed your family while you wait for a response.

If you can find short-term financial incentives, don’t wait. For example, you may have unused cash back app bonuses or unused items that you could sell online. It’s not an ideal scenario, but it’s better than going hungry.

Here are some other steps you can take:

  • Search for local food programs: There are food pantries and soup kitchens across America that can provide you with dried and frozen goods, bread, fresh produce and even a hot meal. You may need to show some form of identification, but unlike SNAP, there are no paperwork or income requirements. Find out what days different local food pantries are open and be prepared to arrive early.
  • Request free legal assistance: The National Center for Economic Law and Justice has filed lawsuits in Alaska, Missouri, Georgia and Connecticut over SNAP delays or other systemic problems. Contact the organization to learn about your rights and what may be done in your state.
  • Make some noise: Continue calling, emailing and writing your local SNAP office. Be polite, but don’t be afraid to speak up. You could also write to local politicians. One SNAP recipient told Marketplace he got a response after reaching out to his local senators.
  • Check if you are entitled to other benefits: If you can get help in any other aspect of your life, it could free up money for food. Go to www.benefits.gov to find out if there are other forms of financial assistance you could apply for. United Way (call 211) is another valuable source of information.
  • Prioritize essential bills: If you’ve kept your household budget afloat despite rising prices and economic hardships in recent years, you’re probably already an expert at juggling bills. However, focus on the essentials such as housing, food and utilities. You might also consider calling some of your creditors to see if you can temporarily delay other payments to give your personal finances some breathing room.

Some people have also turned to friends and family for financial help. If you go this route, keep in mind that your SNAP payments will not be backdated to cover the processing delay. If you borrow money or delay other bills to cope, you won’t receive a lump sum of additional money that you can use to pay off what you owe.

Bottom line

Slow processing of SNAP claims means Americans who qualify for food assistance aren’t getting the support they need. If you live in a state that is behind in processing applications, seek local support in the form of charities and food pantries. Not only could they keep you and your family from going hungry, they could also help you get your SNAP payments more quickly.

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