SNAP Applications Are Slowest in These 5 States


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

Delays when you’re waiting to hear back about a SNAP application can be beyond 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 for having the longest delays:

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

SNAP applications are most delayed in these states

When you apply or renew your SNAP food benefits, the idea is that you get an answer within 30 days. If you are in urgent need, you may qualify for expedited processing with a seven-day turnaround. The USDA wants states to process 95% of applications within these timeframes. Worryingly, only a limited number of states are meeting this target.

According to Secretary Vilsack’s letters, the following states are most 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 the average benefit for a four person household is $713, while the maximum is $973. That means some families are missing out on hundreds of dollars a week because of administrative delays.

What to do if your SNAP application is delayed

If you’re waiting to hear back about a SNAP application or renewal, you’re not alone. Sadly, many people are in similar situations. Don’t give up. What’s important is to find ways to feed your household while you wait for an answer.

If you can find any short-term financial boosts, don’t wait. For example, perhaps you have unused cash back app bonuses or unused items you might be able to sell online. It’s not an ideal scenario, but it’s better than going hungry.

Here are some other steps you can take:

  • Look for local food programs: There are food pantries and soup kitchens all over America that can give you dry and frozen goods, bread, fresh produce, and even a hot meal. You may need to show some form of ID, but — unlike SNAP — there’s no paperwork or income requirements. Check out what days different local pantries are open and be prepared to arrive early.
  • Look for free legal assistance: The National Center for Law and Economic Justice has sued in Alaska, Missouri, Georgia, and Connecticut over SNAP delays or other systemic issues. Reach out to the organization to learn about your rights and what might be done in your state.
  • Make some noise: Keep calling, emailing, and writing to your local SNAP office. Be polite, but don’t be afraid to speak up. You could also write to your local politicians. One SNAP recipient told Marketplace she got an answer after contacting her local senators.
  • See if you qualify for other benefits: If you’re able to get help with any other parts of your life, it could free up cash for food. Go to www.benefits.gov to find out if there are other forms of financial assistance you might be able to claim. United Way (call 211) is another valuable source of information.
  • Prioritize essential bills: If you’ve kept your household budget afloat through the rising prices and economic difficulties of recent years, you’re likely already an expert at juggling bills. All the same, focus on 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, bear in mind that your SNAP payments won’t be backdated to cover the processing delay. If you borrow money or delay other bills to tide yourself over, you won’t get a lump sum of additional money you can use to pay back what you owe.

Bottom line

Slow SNAP paperwork processing means Americans who are eligible for food assistance are not getting the support they need. If you live in a state that’s behind with its application processing, look for local support in the form of charities and food pantries. Not only might they stop you and your household from going hungry, but they may also help you get your SNAP payments more quickly.

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