Wednesday, December 2, 2015
How far is too far when it comes to “SNAP” and other government funded assistance programs?
By Madison Winters
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y.,— The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP is a civil service program available through Clinton County. The program
Colleen Jennings works for the department of civil service. Jennings said there is a list of criteria that people have to meet before they can even apply for assistance.
Eligibility is dependent upon house hold income, being elderly of disabled, receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), receiving public assistance (TANF) or being homeless. Owning a home or car doesn't prohibit assistance.
If you meet the requirements the next step is filling out an application, this step is extremely important because if you are given assistance it is computed from the day you filed your application Jennings said.
Justine Conti and her husband Marty have received SNAP assistance for just over a year. The couple said that the decision to apply for assistance was a difficult decision.
Justine Conti said she didn't want people to think that she was just “taking advantage of the system.”
She thinks that some parents are afraid to ask for the assistance that they really need because they are worried about how that could affect the way other people view them.
“After I had my second child we really struggled to put food on the table every night,” Conti said. “It was embarrassing to apply, but I'll deal with a little embarrassment if that means my kids can go to sleep without being hungry.”
Mark Conti said that the hesitation to apply put the family in a tough position, they wouldn't have enough money to last up to 30 days until they could receive assistance.
“We asked them if there was anything we could do to receive assistance sooner,” he said. “When they explained the expedited snap to us and told us that we qualified it was like a gift from heaven.”
Usually it takes up to 30 days to receive assistance but if you qualify for expedited SNAP you can receive SNAP within 5 business days. You do not need to be out of food to apply for expedited SNAP.
According to Jennings Conditions for eligibility include, a household with less than $100 cash and other available resources, Will get less than $150 in gross income during the month that of application, if the household income and available resources are less than the cost rent or mortgage, plus heat, utilities and telephone or if the applicant is a migrant or seasonal farm worker.
SNAP is trying to make receiving assistance more convenient for their clients through the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. The card is very similar to a regular debit card that you could have through your local bank. The new system works is by provides the client with a card that is easy to use and much more discreet, giving the user anonymity that wasn't possible with the old system. Mary
Waters has just started using the EBT card, she thinks that the card takes a lot of the “shame” out of going to the grocery store for the who are on an assistance program.
“There's always the people that look at you like your just some scum looking for a free hand out,” she said.
Water's thinks that there a large portion of people who receive assistance and use it for things like beer, cigarettes and other non-essential items. Waters said that people who make those purchases with their assistance benefits give the entire process a “bad name”.
“Now I can just swipe my card and the only person that knows what I'm doing is the cashier,” she said. “I only use my card for food that my family needs but still it's nice not to be grouped with people like that.”
There are a few requirements that come along with receiving assistance, if you qualify for SNAP, you may require to see the New York Works councilors at Clinton County Employment and Training Administration (CCETA). The CCETA conducts interview of prospective clients and places them in a Job Readiness program that requires the client to be present for a total of 21 hours a week. The clients are also given 4 to 6 week window for training.
Alexandra O'brien works with Job Readiness program. She said that during the orientation clients are informed of the realities of present day job markets, expectations and guidelines that are necessary to gain and retain employment.
“We talk about child care and transportation and then it gets down to the real stuff,” she said. “Like labor market, assistance with interview skills, assistance with resumes, assistance with job application and dress code and conduct.”
O'brien said that it makes her proud to see some of her clients years later and see how far they've come and how much the assistance and the benefits that go along with it have changed the lives of beneficiaries.
“At the end of the day we could all use some help sometimes,” she said. “The important part is realizing it's OK to ask for it.”