What is taking so long? While there were some major changes made to the food stamp program due to debt ceiling negotiations, certain SNAP recipients in New York State should be able to use their benefits to eat out at restaurants, but can't yet.
Certain New York State Residents Will Now Need To Work To Get Food Stamps
Some New Yorkers, who previously did not have to work to receive SNAP will now have to prove they have a job. New York is one of 18 states that does not require older SNAP recipients to work, but Republicans used debt ceiling negotiations to change that. New York currently offers a waiver for the federal government's "Able Bodied Adults without Dependents" requirement. But, now that waiver will go away.
The ABAWD rule requires adults with no children under the age of 18, unless exempted, to work 20 hours weekly or participate in work-related training or education in order to get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Those who don't work or train 80 hours a month are only eligible for SNAP benefits for 3 months during a 3-year period. The ABAWD requirement applies to SNAP recipients ages 18 to 49, but Republican House representatives want to increase the working age.
Republicans used federal debt ceiling negotiations to secure new SNAP requirements, which they had been trying to push before negotiations. They had previously introduced the America Works Act For Food Stamps. Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota, sought to change to age requiring SNAP recipients to work to 65. He and a group of more than 20 other Republican representatives wanted to force older people to work at least 20 hours for an additional 15 years to keep their SNAP benefits (without having an exemption). They reached a compromise with the White House to increase the work requirements to include Americans up to the age of 54.
Some New Yorkers Who Receive Food Stamps Should Be Able To Use Benefits at Restaurants
Some people who receive SNAP benefits in New York should be able to use them to buy food from restaurants. Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation in October of 2021, approving the use of food stamp benefits by the homeless, elderly, and disabled to buy hot, prepared meals. The statewide Restaurant Meals Program was designed to help people who struggle with food security, according to Gov. Hochul,
"It's unconscionable that in a state as prosperous as New York, many residents still struggle to get enough food to feed their families. The vital actions we're taking—establishing two restaurant programs to help the most vulnerable New Yorkers feed themselves and help restaurants recover from this terrible pandemic—will work in tandem to put food on the table in homes across the state. This pandemic continues to impact the wallets and homes of a vast number of New Yorkers, and we're taking any and all actions to help them support themselves and their loved ones."
Even though Gov. Hochul approved the program in New York State 2 years ago, it still has not been implemented.
What Is The Restaurant Meals Program?
This program, which would help many New Yorkers be independent, is still not available, almost two years after the Gov. signed the legislation. Not every SNAP recipient would be able to use their benefits at restaurants.
The Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) is a state option to allow certain SNAP clients, who might not be able to prepare meals for themselves or who do not have permanent housing for storing and preparing food, to be able to buy prepared meals at restaurants with their SNAP benefits.
The program is supposed to allow people who might be suffering from homelessness, who are elderly, or who are disabled from struggling with hunger due to an inability to make their own meals. However, according to LowIncomeRelief.com, in an update from OTDA as of January 2023,
OTDA has just begun discussions with the federal government on the design and requirements of the Restaurant Meals Program and towards securing the necessary agreements and authorities to operate such a program. No further information is available at this time.
It's not made clear in the response from OTD why they are "just" beginning talks with the U.S. Government. This delay has potentially stopped the program from helping many New Yorkers.
What Restaurants Will Be Eligible For The Program Once It Is Finally Approved?
In order to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program, a spot must:
- Be in a state that has an RMP.
- Get approval from the state and provide a signed agreement to FNS.
- Be authorized by FNS to accept SNAP benefits.
***This story has been updated to reflect that while Governor Hochul has approved using SNAP at restaurants, the program has still not been implemented