Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/snap 2017-10-23T15:19:30+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com At Hearing on Hunger, Council Presses De Blasio Administration on SNAP Participation 2016-01-14T03:36:21+00:00 2016-01-14T03:36:21+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6086:at-hearing-on-hunger-council-presses-de-blasio-administration-on-snap-participation Carmen Russo <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/lander_menchaca_hunger.jpg" alt="lander menchaca hunger" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">CMs Lander, left, and Menchaca confer on Wednesday (photo via @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>At an oversight hearing Wednesday about the city's efforts to fight hunger, members of the City Council general welfare committee questioned a panel of de Blasio administration officials about key city programs. Council members asked about participation in the Supplement and Nutritional Assistance Program (also known as “SNAP” or “food stamps”), Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) efforts, and other components of anti-hunger services.</p> <p dir="ltr">About 1.4 million New Yorkers - 16.5 percent of the population - are food insecure, according to data from the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycfood/downloads/pdf/2015-food-metrics-report.pdf" target="_blank">2015 NYC Food Metrics Report</a>. And as the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, an advocacy group, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycfood/downloads/pdf/2015-food-metrics-report.pdf" target="_blank">has found</a>, 48 percent of food insecure New Yorkers between the ages of 15 and 65 were employed (2012-2014). <a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security.aspx" target="_blank">Food insecurity</a> is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Participation in SNAP for eligible New Yorkers has decreased under Mayor Bill de Blasio,<a href="http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/?p=889" target="_blank"> as it did</a> under his predecessor. Though approximately <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/hra_facts/hrafacts_2015/hra_facts_2015_11.pdf" target="_blank">1.7 million</a> New Yorkers received SNAP assistance as of this past November, Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6082-council-to-assess-hunger-problem-city-efforts-to-reduce-it" target="_blank"> estimates</a> that around 500,000 people in the city are eligible but not enrolled.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It seems that the reduction in benefits by the federal government is probably one of the largest reasons for why there has been a decrease in SNAP participation,” Human Resources Administration Chief Program Officer Lisa Fitzpatrick said at the Council hearing Wednesday.</p> <p dir="ltr">Representatives from HRA, the city agency that handles the benefits, testified that the city is only aware of the SNAP participation rate among eligible senior citizens. It was calculated by using information from the Benefits Data Trust and Medicaid rolls. That number -<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hra/downloads/pdf/news/testimonies/2014/nov_2014/HungerHearing_2014.pdf" target="_blank"> 50 percent</a> as of 2014 - may have increased because of a senior citizens outreach program launched by the de Blasio administration to get more eligible seniors signed up for food stamps.</p> <p dir="ltr">Why HRA does not collect similar data about the larger population and food stamp participation was a question raised at Wednesday’s hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Brad Lander, a member of the committee, asked administration reps how good the city can make its understanding of the “universe” of eligible New Yorkers not receiving SNAP.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The strategy has been less about ‘Can we get an actual concrete number?’” Barbara Turk, the food policy director in the mayor’s office, said. Turk proceeded to explain ways in which SNAP eligible people are engaged and encouraged to apply, such as during interviews from city workers on related subjects.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though much relevant data is released in the city’s annual Food Metrics Report, the number of New Yorkers eligible for SNAP that aren’t receiving it is not.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The question isn’t ‘Are we working hard?’” Lander asked. “The question is do we have the tool for evaluating how that’s going?”</p> <p dir="ltr">“And I understand why it’s complicated,” Lander continued, “but I’ll be honest, it sounds like for a range of sensible reasons, you really don’t.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the committee, expressed similar concern when the topic came up later in the hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Levin asked if the percentage of senior citizens not receiving SNAP benefits entitled to them changed because of the senior citizen outreach program launched by the de Blasio administration and nonprofit partners in September 2014. Turk said that “it’s a number that moves around a lot” and did not give a concrete answer.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We want to make sure that it’s working and data should be reflecting the efforts and so we should be able to see the impacts and the trend numbers,” Levin said, mentioning, by contrast, that the city has observed a rise in high school graduation. “I think a good way to know how this program is working is whether or not that number is going up to 52 percent, or 53 percent or 55 percent.”</p> <p dir="ltr">HRA emergency food assistance, SNAP enrollment outreach to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments, and other topics related to city policy on hunger were also discussed at the hearing. After the panel of de Blasio administration representatives, advocates from the Coalition Against Hunger, the Citizens’ Committee for Children, and other organizations testified. Advocates added depth to the severity of the problem being outlined at the hearing and largely said that they were supportive of HRA Commissoiner Steve Banks' leadership.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is possible that the SNAP participation rate could soon increase thanks to a change in state policy: one of the proposals included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State budget book, released on Wednesday, would raise the state’s Gross Income Test for SNAP eligibility from 130 percent to 150 percent of the poverty line. This would make the benefits available to 750,000 households that previously could not get them, according to the budget book estimate.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/lander_menchaca_hunger.jpg" alt="lander menchaca hunger" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">CMs Lander, left, and Menchaca confer on Wednesday (photo via @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>At an oversight hearing Wednesday about the city's efforts to fight hunger, members of the City Council general welfare committee questioned a panel of de Blasio administration officials about key city programs. Council members asked about participation in the Supplement and Nutritional Assistance Program (also known as “SNAP” or “food stamps”), Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) efforts, and other components of anti-hunger services.</p> <p dir="ltr">About 1.4 million New Yorkers - 16.5 percent of the population - are food insecure, according to data from the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycfood/downloads/pdf/2015-food-metrics-report.pdf" target="_blank">2015 NYC Food Metrics Report</a>. And as the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, an advocacy group, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycfood/downloads/pdf/2015-food-metrics-report.pdf" target="_blank">has found</a>, 48 percent of food insecure New Yorkers between the ages of 15 and 65 were employed (2012-2014). <a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security.aspx" target="_blank">Food insecurity</a> is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Participation in SNAP for eligible New Yorkers has decreased under Mayor Bill de Blasio,<a href="http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/?p=889" target="_blank"> as it did</a> under his predecessor. Though approximately <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/hra_facts/hrafacts_2015/hra_facts_2015_11.pdf" target="_blank">1.7 million</a> New Yorkers received SNAP assistance as of this past November, Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6082-council-to-assess-hunger-problem-city-efforts-to-reduce-it" target="_blank"> estimates</a> that around 500,000 people in the city are eligible but not enrolled.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It seems that the reduction in benefits by the federal government is probably one of the largest reasons for why there has been a decrease in SNAP participation,” Human Resources Administration Chief Program Officer Lisa Fitzpatrick said at the Council hearing Wednesday.</p> <p dir="ltr">Representatives from HRA, the city agency that handles the benefits, testified that the city is only aware of the SNAP participation rate among eligible senior citizens. It was calculated by using information from the Benefits Data Trust and Medicaid rolls. That number -<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hra/downloads/pdf/news/testimonies/2014/nov_2014/HungerHearing_2014.pdf" target="_blank"> 50 percent</a> as of 2014 - may have increased because of a senior citizens outreach program launched by the de Blasio administration to get more eligible seniors signed up for food stamps.</p> <p dir="ltr">Why HRA does not collect similar data about the larger population and food stamp participation was a question raised at Wednesday’s hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Brad Lander, a member of the committee, asked administration reps how good the city can make its understanding of the “universe” of eligible New Yorkers not receiving SNAP.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The strategy has been less about ‘Can we get an actual concrete number?’” Barbara Turk, the food policy director in the mayor’s office, said. Turk proceeded to explain ways in which SNAP eligible people are engaged and encouraged to apply, such as during interviews from city workers on related subjects.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though much relevant data is released in the city’s annual Food Metrics Report, the number of New Yorkers eligible for SNAP that aren’t receiving it is not.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The question isn’t ‘Are we working hard?’” Lander asked. “The question is do we have the tool for evaluating how that’s going?”</p> <p dir="ltr">“And I understand why it’s complicated,” Lander continued, “but I’ll be honest, it sounds like for a range of sensible reasons, you really don’t.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the committee, expressed similar concern when the topic came up later in the hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Levin asked if the percentage of senior citizens not receiving SNAP benefits entitled to them changed because of the senior citizen outreach program launched by the de Blasio administration and nonprofit partners in September 2014. Turk said that “it’s a number that moves around a lot” and did not give a concrete answer.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We want to make sure that it’s working and data should be reflecting the efforts and so we should be able to see the impacts and the trend numbers,” Levin said, mentioning, by contrast, that the city has observed a rise in high school graduation. “I think a good way to know how this program is working is whether or not that number is going up to 52 percent, or 53 percent or 55 percent.”</p> <p dir="ltr">HRA emergency food assistance, SNAP enrollment outreach to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments, and other topics related to city policy on hunger were also discussed at the hearing. After the panel of de Blasio administration representatives, advocates from the Coalition Against Hunger, the Citizens’ Committee for Children, and other organizations testified. Advocates added depth to the severity of the problem being outlined at the hearing and largely said that they were supportive of HRA Commissoiner Steve Banks' leadership.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is possible that the SNAP participation rate could soon increase thanks to a change in state policy: one of the proposals included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State budget book, released on Wednesday, would raise the state’s Gross Income Test for SNAP eligibility from 130 percent to 150 percent of the poverty line. This would make the benefits available to 750,000 households that previously could not get them, according to the budget book estimate.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> New Guide to Public Assistance Aims to Help Neediest Navigate System 2015-04-30T19:10:45+00:00 2015-04-30T19:10:45+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5705:new-guide-to-public-assistance-aims-to-help-neediest-navigate-system Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/snp_cup_hra.jpg" alt="snp cup hra" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">At Thursday's guide release (photo: @DMirandaSNP)</span></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">New Yorkers in need of public assistance provided by the city must navigate a maze of bureaucracy and paperwork. In an attempt to provide clarity and ensure that the neediest access available benefits, the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center in collaboration with the Center for Urban Pedagogy today released a visual guide to the city’s welfare system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Titled “<a href="http://welcometocup.org/file_columns/0000/0670/snp_web_download_setup.pdf" target="_blank">Your Guide to Welfare NYC</a>,” the poster is designed to help the 350,000 city residents <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/hra_facts/hrafacts_2015/hra_facts_2015_03.pdf" target="_blank">who rely</a> on public cash assistance to access benefits and protect themselves when those benefits are in danger of being revoked.</p> <p dir="ltr">The guide was created over the last year through feedback from recipients of public benefits and advocacy groups. The city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) also helped review the poster drafts and its commissioner, Steve Banks, was at Thursday’s launch event.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Safety Net Project has printed 2,000 copies, a portion of which will be distributed today throughout the five boroughs while the online version of the guide is disseminated through social media and other channels.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With over 350,000 people relying on public assistance, there aren’t enough resources to ensure everyone has access,” said Denise Miranda, managing director of the Safety Net Project. “There’s an urgent need to help those people who rely on benefits for their survival.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Going forward, Miranda hopes that they can translate the multi-page poster into different languages and print and distribute on a larger scale. “We’re hopeful that the city might participate in raising funds for distribution,” she said. “It’s a resource tool that will be invaluable to New Yorkers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The poster - in red, white and blue - has a step-by-step visual guide divided into three easily readable sections with graphics. The first section lays down the basics of eligibility for benefits, how they are disseminated, and where to apply. The second section gives simple instructions for how to apply, including the documents needed and tips for visiting HRA centers. The final section shows people how to retain benefits, avoid sanctions, and settle disputes with HRA.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/nyc_welfare_guide_via_safey_net.jpg" alt="nyc welfare guide via safey net" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="324" width="350" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Showing renewed cooperation between HRA and advocacy groups, the release was held at HRA’s Waverly Job Center in midtown. “We have been partnering with community groups all over the city,” Commissioner Banks told reporters. “Over the past year we’ve been making dramatic reforms in the agency and we think efforts like this are helpful to get information out to our clients. We look forward to continue to partner with the Urban Justice Center and other efforts to make sure our clients are aware of the services that we have and help them navigate that process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Under Banks, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, HRA has seen significant changes from past administrations. “After 20 years of administrations that showed disregard, some might say disdain, for people in need of assistance, there’s been a shift in outreach, policy and culture in the new administration,” said Safety Net Project’s Miranda.</p> <p dir="ltr">HRA has also been making efforts in easing the process of accessing benefits. Just last week, the city <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/blaz-pushes-raise-food-stamp-enrollment-article-1.2192318" target="_blank">announced</a> a new website, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#Mary" target="_blank">foodhelp.nyc</a>, to help people apply for &nbsp;Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps. The city estimates that more than half a million New Yorkers qualify for SNAP but have not availed of them.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Anything that helps people know about and navigate the complicated process [of public assistance] is important,” said Liz Accles, executive director of Community Food Advocates. “The administration has taken big steps forward. But there have been 20 years of policy and public practice in place that make it nearly impossible to access public assistance. It takes the full effect of both the city administration and advocacy organizations to see that people are able to get assistance and navigate the process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Wendy O’Shields has volunteered at Safety Net Project for the last year and worked on the new guide. Her perspective is doubly relevant considering that during the Great Recession, she had to reluctantly apply for public assistance. “There was nothing I could reference to learn the rules that HRA goes by,” she told Gotham Gazette after today’s press conference. “I had to learn by the experience, the school of hard knocks. It would have been very helpful going through crises if there was something I could have referenced so I could have not made the learning curve beginner mistakes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The new poster does just that. Perhaps more aptly called a pamphlet, it translates legal technical information into conversational language and has a flow-chart-like design. “We often think of it as building a narrative that helps people move through the information in a way that’s accessible,” said Christine Gaspar, executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy. “The process is about bringing those pieces together.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/snp_cup_hra.jpg" alt="snp cup hra" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">At Thursday's guide release (photo: @DMirandaSNP)</span></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">New Yorkers in need of public assistance provided by the city must navigate a maze of bureaucracy and paperwork. In an attempt to provide clarity and ensure that the neediest access available benefits, the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center in collaboration with the Center for Urban Pedagogy today released a visual guide to the city’s welfare system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Titled “<a href="http://welcometocup.org/file_columns/0000/0670/snp_web_download_setup.pdf" target="_blank">Your Guide to Welfare NYC</a>,” the poster is designed to help the 350,000 city residents <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/hra_facts/hrafacts_2015/hra_facts_2015_03.pdf" target="_blank">who rely</a> on public cash assistance to access benefits and protect themselves when those benefits are in danger of being revoked.</p> <p dir="ltr">The guide was created over the last year through feedback from recipients of public benefits and advocacy groups. The city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) also helped review the poster drafts and its commissioner, Steve Banks, was at Thursday’s launch event.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Safety Net Project has printed 2,000 copies, a portion of which will be distributed today throughout the five boroughs while the online version of the guide is disseminated through social media and other channels.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With over 350,000 people relying on public assistance, there aren’t enough resources to ensure everyone has access,” said Denise Miranda, managing director of the Safety Net Project. “There’s an urgent need to help those people who rely on benefits for their survival.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Going forward, Miranda hopes that they can translate the multi-page poster into different languages and print and distribute on a larger scale. “We’re hopeful that the city might participate in raising funds for distribution,” she said. “It’s a resource tool that will be invaluable to New Yorkers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The poster - in red, white and blue - has a step-by-step visual guide divided into three easily readable sections with graphics. The first section lays down the basics of eligibility for benefits, how they are disseminated, and where to apply. The second section gives simple instructions for how to apply, including the documents needed and tips for visiting HRA centers. The final section shows people how to retain benefits, avoid sanctions, and settle disputes with HRA.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/nyc_welfare_guide_via_safey_net.jpg" alt="nyc welfare guide via safey net" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="324" width="350" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Showing renewed cooperation between HRA and advocacy groups, the release was held at HRA’s Waverly Job Center in midtown. “We have been partnering with community groups all over the city,” Commissioner Banks told reporters. “Over the past year we’ve been making dramatic reforms in the agency and we think efforts like this are helpful to get information out to our clients. We look forward to continue to partner with the Urban Justice Center and other efforts to make sure our clients are aware of the services that we have and help them navigate that process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Under Banks, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, HRA has seen significant changes from past administrations. “After 20 years of administrations that showed disregard, some might say disdain, for people in need of assistance, there’s been a shift in outreach, policy and culture in the new administration,” said Safety Net Project’s Miranda.</p> <p dir="ltr">HRA has also been making efforts in easing the process of accessing benefits. Just last week, the city <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/blaz-pushes-raise-food-stamp-enrollment-article-1.2192318" target="_blank">announced</a> a new website, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#Mary" target="_blank">foodhelp.nyc</a>, to help people apply for &nbsp;Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps. The city estimates that more than half a million New Yorkers qualify for SNAP but have not availed of them.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Anything that helps people know about and navigate the complicated process [of public assistance] is important,” said Liz Accles, executive director of Community Food Advocates. “The administration has taken big steps forward. But there have been 20 years of policy and public practice in place that make it nearly impossible to access public assistance. It takes the full effect of both the city administration and advocacy organizations to see that people are able to get assistance and navigate the process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Wendy O’Shields has volunteered at Safety Net Project for the last year and worked on the new guide. Her perspective is doubly relevant considering that during the Great Recession, she had to reluctantly apply for public assistance. “There was nothing I could reference to learn the rules that HRA goes by,” she told Gotham Gazette after today’s press conference. “I had to learn by the experience, the school of hard knocks. It would have been very helpful going through crises if there was something I could have referenced so I could have not made the learning curve beginner mistakes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The new poster does just that. Perhaps more aptly called a pamphlet, it translates legal technical information into conversational language and has a flow-chart-like design. “We often think of it as building a narrative that helps people move through the information in a way that’s accessible,” said Christine Gaspar, executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy. “The process is about bringing those pieces together.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p>