Along with water and oxygen, food is a staple of life. It sustains us, warms us and, let's face it, even makes us happy. In fact, one of the surest signs of good relations is the act of "breaking bread" with one another. Many Americans, New Yorkers included, take their nutritional needs for granted, never having known the pangs of hunger.
Yet there are more than a few for whom physical sustenance comes inconsistently, sometimes too rarely. New York State, as with the nation, makes provision for those who cannot afford to procure their basic food provisions.
Evolution of Food Stamps in the Empire State
Food stamps, as the program was known for almost a century, is a United States' government creation delegated to the individual states to administer. Interestingly, the very first beneficiary was a resident of Rochester, New York, Mabel McFiggin, in 1939. Four years later, the program was feeding nearly 20 million people nationwide.
It is worth noting that the Food Stamp Program (FSP) was motivated as much by overwhelming agricultural surpluses as by human want. When the surpluses were exhausted in 1943, the program ceased.
Still, hunger would not abate regardless of farm output, so food stamp distribution resumed in 1961, and has continued, though reformed and adjusted by subsequent laws, ever since. Participation would reach a peak of nearly 48 million people in 2013.
Now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), it provides benefits to 2.77 million New Yorkers as of the beginning of 2022. It supports low-income working people as well as senior citizens, disabled persons and others whose circumstances have left them short on provisions. The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) determines the eligibility status and level of allocation based on household size and income among other variables.
Read More: How Do Food Stamps Work?
How Are SNAP Benefits Determined in New York?
SNAP income guidelines in NY begin with the ratio of household size to household income. This is the first threshold that must be crossed and it is not a guarantee of benefits. For example, a family of four, where nobody is working, should not have a combined gross income of $2,871 per month or $34,452 annually.
The standard is adjusted upward when some of the income is earned in the workplace. The baseline threshold becomes $3,313 monthly and $39,756 per year. The ratios are further tweaked when there is an elderly or disabled resident in the home. Yet the household size-income proportion is just one measuring stick the state applies.
Other factors have to do with whether unemployment benefits are coming into the house, whether the applicant is a full-time student and whether the application is for first-time benefits or re-certification. By way of example, a young college student who works part-time for a low wage might be eligible insofar as the food stamp income limit in New York goes. However, if the student lives with her parents who are each gainfully employed and in no need of assistance, that weakens the application, especially if they claim the student as a dependent on their tax return.
Read More: List of Allowable Food Stamp (SNAP) Items
What About Savings?
There was a time when financial assets previously attained were included in OTDA calculations but this is no longer the case. By itself, saved money is not income so is excluded from evaluation. However, interest-bearing accounts do bring in revenue, and that would be figured into the income guidelines. Needless to say, a substantial investment portfolio could work against a SNAP applicant.
Adam Luehrs is a writer during the day and a voracious reader at night. He focuses mostly on finance writing and has a passion for real estate, credit card deals, and investing.