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Slashes may come to SNAP, HIP looking at suspension

  • The Quabbin Harvest Community Co-op, at 12 North Main St., in Orange received notice that the Healthy Incentives Program has been suspended by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, effective April 15. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/DEBORRAH PORTER



Staff Reporter
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

ATHOL — It may not be long before the hungriest people throughout the North Quabbin area become even hungrier.

Though one in six households, including many senior citizens, throughout the state rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), there could soon be a decrease in those benefits, according to news out of Washington, D.C., that indicates President Trump’s 2019 budget outlines nearly $214 million in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years.

The food stamp program began in the late 1930s to help stave off hunger during depressed economic times. The SNAP participation rate in rural areas rose from 12.5 percent to 16 percent from 2010 to 2015, exceeding the national average, according to reports.

SNAP is a resource to help seniors with limited income and for families with children under 18, providing nutrition essential for childhood development.

Important to our elders

Cathy Savoy, executive director of the Athol Council on Aging, said any cut in SNAP benefits “will affect our elders significantly.”

She processes so many SNAP applications and re-certifications each week that she has set aside time on Mondays to do so.

“SNAP benefits are critical to the well-being and health of our seniors. It increases their budget enough to shop and make good food choices,” she said. “People are already choosing between paying for prescription drugs and food. This decision by the White House is unfathomable.”

Suspension coming to HIP

Another vital program, HIP (Healthy Incentives Program), which gained traction in the North Quabbin area, will be suspended starting April 15. First implemented as a pilot program in November 2011, HIP has provided more than $3.2 million in incentives to more than 33,000 SNAP households throughout Massachusetts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the Department of Pubnlic Health a federal grant to expand the pilot in 2017 and automatically enrolled SNAP households in HIP.

Pat Larson of Quabbin Harvest Community Co-op in Orange was notified by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance that SNAP clients will stop receiving a HIP incentive when they make a qualified SNAP purchase, due to HIP’s overwhelming success and associated, unanticipated funding demands.

Purchases from farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share programs were all eligible for reimbursement.

Larson said the HIP program reimbursed clients who made vegetable purchases using their SNAP benefits. The amount spent on fresh, locally grown vegetables was reimbursed, dollar-for-dollar, directly to their SNAP cards.

Quabbin Harvest, along with food banks, CSA projects, farmers and others are fighting to get emergency funding for April through June 2018 to keep the HIP-SNAP program going.

Larson said SNAP/EBT cards can still be used to purchase a vegetable share for $18, and/or a fruit share for $5 or $12 (deluxe), once a month. Operating hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m to 7 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m to 5 p.m. For more information call 978-544-6784.

SNAP Eligibility Guidelines

Eligibility for SNAP depends on the number of people in a household and income.

To qualify, annual household income (before taxes) must be below the following amounts:

Household Size * (Maximum Income Level per year)

1 ($23,760); 2 ($32,040); 3 ($40,320); 4 ( $48,600); 5 ($56,880); 6 ($65,160); 7 ($73,460); 8 ($81,780)

*For households with more than eight people, add $8,320 per additional person.

To apply for this program, call 800-249-2007, or visit http://bit.ly/2iOJ7Wz

If a member of your household is elderly (60 or over) and/or disabled, special rules apply in order to receive SNAP benefits in Massachusetts.


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