February 13, 2023

Indiana Senate passes bill to 'simplify' SNAP renewal for seniors, people with disabilities

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Indiana’s percent of food-insecure households declined in 2019-21 compared to previous three-year averages in USDA data. - FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik/IPB News

Indiana’s percent of food-insecure households declined in 2019-21 compared to previous three-year averages in USDA data.

FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik/IPB News

About one in 10 Hoosier households report difficulties getting enough healthy food with consistency. Nationally, the struggle to get food is particularly pronounced for elderly folks who live alone.

Indiana senators passed Senate Bill 334 Tuesday to simplify access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, also known as food stamps, for people over 60 or who have disabilities and their households.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 9.5 percent of people over 65 who live alone were somewhat or very food insecure in 2021, a meaningful increase over 2020.

SB 334 would allow seniors and people with disabilities to stay on SNAP without having to renew their application for up to three years. The bill’s author, Sen. Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington), emphasized that these changes wouldn’t expand eligibility.

“This just eases the application process for a vulnerable population. And it's a program that is covered 100% with federal dollars and perhaps will even be a cost savings in the administration of the program at the state level,” Yoder said. “Food secure individuals with disabilities and seniors are healthier Hoosiers, physically and mentally”

Low-income, older Hoosiers, particularly in rural areas, say SNAP can be “complicated” and provide “limited” benefits, a 2020 Indiana University study found. 

“SNAP and other programs often involve paperwork that discourages participation given the low benefit amounts, the costs of getting to welfare offices, and perceptions of need and eligibility,” said Angela Babb, director at the IU Critical Food Studies Laboratory, in a press release about the study.

READ MORE: Indiana food banks welcome federal SNAP benefit boost, but say it's not enough

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Kristen LaEace, Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging CEO, told lawmakers that struggle is compounded by laws requiring beneficiaries to renew their application every 24 months by phone, computer or in person. (Younger people without disabilities have to renew every 12 months.)

“Older adults can have difficulty navigating this – not only causing stress and anxiety, but hey, they may not even have the broadband to connect,” LaEace said.

The bill would still require eligible individuals to provide updated income information every 12 months or when their income changes. It would also allow those eligible to waive interview requirements for renewals.

And SB 344 includes a provision requiring Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration to provide information on how to apply for SNAP to anyone on Medicaid. FSSA already does that, Yoder said, this provision in the bill is just intended to codify that practice in state law.

Indiana’s percent of food-insecure households declined in 2019-2021 compared to previous three-year averages in USDA data. Many states saw similar declines.

That decline is reflected in the share of marginal food insecurity among the state’s elderly residents. According to estimates from Feeding America, 9.8 percent of older Hoosiers were marginally insecure in 2020, down from 12.7 percent in 2019.

SB 344 passed the state Senate with unanimous support and now heads to the House.

Adam is our labor and employment reporter. Contact him at arayes@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.

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