Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) State Supplement

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, funds a nutrition benefit for low-income individuals and families. SNAP is primarily a federal entitlement program, but Massachusetts funds a small supplement through the state budget. The United States Department of Agriculture oversees SNAP at the federal level. In Massachusetts, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) administers the program.

SNAP is a federal entitlement program providing nutritious foods to low-income eligible individuals and families. There is no cap on federal funding and no waiting list, and a person cannot be refused benefits if they are eligible (including certain immigrants). SNAP recipients are families with children, elders and the disabled. Many are working, but receive such low wages that they still meet SNAP income eligibility requirements which are the same as Temporary Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

Benefits are accessed with an Electronic Benefit Transfer Card (EBT) which is used the same way a debit card is used. The EBT card can be used at most grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies and some farmers' markets and co-op food programs. Benefits are added monthly to a recipients' EBT card – paper coupons are no longer used.

Most foods are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. Food products which are not eligible include: alcohol, pet foods, vitamins and supplements, hot foods and other prepared foods that could be eaten in the store.

The participation rate in Massachusetts of eligible individuals who apply for and receive the benefits has increased significantly in the last few years. In FY 2005, only 54 percent of eligible people received benefits. With funding directed at increasing participation in line item 4400-1001, participation climbed to 93 percent in FY 2012. Data for subsequent years has not been made available, however, the number of people receiving benefits also climbed significantly during this time before falling in the past few years. In October 2013, 890,000 people received SNAP, an increase of 75 percent since May 2008. As of Septemeber 2016, the number of people receiving benefits had fallen back to 771,000.

Updated February 2017

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