|June 3, 2021
|Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Introduction of Priority Areas for State Outreach Plans
|All SNAP State Agencies
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is committed to increasing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As the cornerstone the nation’s nutrition assistance safety net, SNAP is one of the most powerful tools available to ensure low-income people have access to healthy, affordable food. Research has shown that SNAP reduces food insecurity and lifts millions of people out of poverty each year. SNAP also aids in economic recovery during recessions. A recent USDA study found that in a slow economy, $1 billion in additional SNAP benefits would lead to an increase of $1.54 billion in the gross domestic product.1
Program informational activities, or SNAP outreach activities, are a critical tool to ensure vulnerable populations are aware of the availability, eligibility requirements, application procedures, and benefits of the SNAP program. In line with administration priorities and to ensure that all eligible households have the opportunity to access SNAP benefits, FNS has developed outreach priority areas to encourage states to target certain underrepresented or particularly vulnerable populations.
Although program participation among eligible households has increased in recent years, misunderstandings about SNAP continue to discourage some groups from applying. Additionally, while an estimated 84 percent of eligible people received SNAP benefits in fiscal year (FY) 2017, participation rates for all eligible persons vary from state to state, ranging from a low of 52 percent to a high of 100 percent.2
FNS encourages all states to develop a SNAP outreach plan. FNS reimburses state agencies for up to 50 percent of allowable administrative costs, including outreach activities. An approved outreach plan is required to ensure that activities are eligible for reimbursement. State agencies should submit outreach plans to their FNS regional office by August 15 in order to allow sufficient time for review and approval.
FNS has developed priority areas to encourage states to target their outreach activities to certain underrepresented or particularly vulnerable populations. Although states may conduct any allowable outreach activities, FNS encourages states to pursue partnerships and strengthen their existing outreach plans in four priority areas. The FY 2022 SNAP outreach priority areas are:
- Racial equity. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated longstanding disparities in food insecurity, with black and Latino adults more than twice as likely as white adults to report that their households did not get enough to eat.3 In alignment with the USDA’s priorities to advance racial equity and reduce barriers to SNAP participation, FNS encourages states to strengthen partnerships with historically underserved communities. We encourage states to collaborate with organizations that are both located within and staffed by those from underserved communities to reach all families in all local neighborhoods.
- Students. A 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report4 found that students may be unaware or misinformed about their potential eligibility. For example, many individuals enrolled in institutions of higher education less than half time mistakenly believe that they are ineligible for SNAP. To meet this priority area, FNS encourages states to explore partnerships with institutions of higher education and other community partners to provide students accurate eligibility information and application assistance.
- Immigrant communities and mixed status families. Eligible non-citizen families feared applying for SNAP benefits due to the now-vacated 2019 public charge rule and longstanding misunderstanding of eligibility criteria for citizen children with non-citizen parents. According to a recent study, 10.2 percent of adults in immigrant families with children reported that they or someone in their family avoided SNAP due to fear of risking future green card status.5 FNS encourages states to explore partnerships with trusted community partners that focus on immigrant populations. These partnerships can help communicate changes about the public charge rule and current policy for eligible immigrant households, in particular mixed status families, to begin restoring trust.
- Veterans. A recent survey found that 59 percent of eligible veterans were not enrolled in SNAP.6 Estimates of food insecurity among veterans vary widely, with some research indicating that more than 20 percent of veterans experience food insecurity,7 compared to 10.5 percent of all U.S. households.8 FNS encourages states to partner with local Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities or other local veteran service organizations to provide eligibility information and help connect veterans to the program.
FNS encourages states to carefully consider one or more of these priority areas when analyzing state needs and developing FY 2022 outreach plans. Detailed information about outreach plan requirements and allowable activities may be found in the SNAP State Outreach Plan Guidance. Only allowable outreach activities may be included in the outreach plan.
Unallowable costs include:
- Radio, television, and billboard advertisements.
- Any agreements with foreign governments designed to promote SNAP benefits and enrollment.
- Determining eligibility of a SNAP applicant.
- Activities related to authorizing retailers for EBT.
- Activities that solely benefit programs other than SNAP.
- Serving as an authorized representative for an applicant or participant.
- Transportation of clients to or from the local SNAP office.
- Recruitment activities, defined at 7 CFR 277.4(b) as “activities designed to persuade an individual who has made an informed choice not to apply for food stamps to change his or her decision and apply.”
FNS expects to release additional outreach priority areas in future fiscal years to highlight particular areas of interest or concern for states to focus SNAP outreach efforts. FNS will continue to work to identify promising practices from states currently engaged in these activities and facilitate opportunities to share lessons learned.
Thank you for your efforts to improve access to SNAP for all eligible participants. State agencies with questions should contact their respective FNS regional office representatives.
Program Development Division