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Broader Food Assistance Coming July 1

A closeup image of eggs resting inside of a grey egg carton
Virginia Mayo
/
AP Photo

Thousands of more Virginians can qualify for food assistance under broader eligibility criteria going into effect July 1, when a bill from this year’s legislative session goes into effect.

Food assistance, commonly known as food stamps, is officially called SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Families with a gross income of 200% of the federal poverty level can qualify under the new criteria. A family of three with a gross income of $44,000 can qualify if their income after taxes and deductions is about $22,000. 

Having savings won’t disqualify people from eligibility because the bill also removes an asset test that required people to spend their savings before receiving SNAP.

“Food insecurity and hunger is a much bigger problem than you think,” said Delegate Dan Helmer, who sponsored the House of Delegates’ version of the new law. “Recent reporting suggests as many as 20% of Virginians are at risk of food insecurity. That number has gone up substantially with the pandemic.”

Before the pandemic, about 690,000 Virginians participated in SNAP. In March it was closer to 760,000. The expansion could help over 25,000 new families in Virginia purchase food, under estimates

Salaam Bhatti, the Public Benefits attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said even with the pandemic waning, expanding food assistance is still important.

“We know our low income neighbors are going to take a lot longer to recover economically,” said Bhatti of the VPLC, which has released a SNAP benefits calculator. “We want to make sure that all the benefits are available to them so that they can get that food on the table. They can perform better in school and do better at work and have a better time.”

The eligibility requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are also being expanded under the law.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.