March 31, 2022

New USDA Analysis: Participation Rates

New data released by USDA indicate that 7 million people  eligible for SNAP– or nearly 1 in 5 – went unserved in an average month during  Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2019.

“SNAP Gaps”  in participation  among eligible people are particularly pronounced for certain states and demographic groups. According to USDA analysis, just about half of eligible people participate in SNAP in some states.

Although the national SNAP participation rate for those aged 60 and above increased in FFY 2019. it was only 48 percent over and even lower at 28 percent for older individuals living with others.

Eligible non-citizens and citizen children living with non-citizen adults registered significant drops in SNAP participation. In FFY 2019 participation rates were  only 55 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

Ways to Make Progress in Closing SNAP Gaps

More can and should be done to make progress in closing SNAP Gaps. A series of reports from FRAC, The Food Trust and state and local partners:

  • Identify barriers that are contributing to SNAP Gaps,
  • Tap expertise of those with lived experiences with hunger and poverty, and
  • Offer recommendations for steps that policymakers and stakeholders can take to connect more eligible people with SNAP.

Common closing SNAP Gaps recommendations include  investing in outreach and application assistance, improving customer service, ensuring adequate language access, offering in-person as well as remote services, leveraging technology tools, and taking policy options that streamline SNAP enrollment. State SNAP outreach plans can leverage federal matching funds to support robust application assistance initiatives.

As FRAC and Unidos US have pointed out in a letter to USDA leadership, USDA should provide greater support for SNAP outreach and administration, including to get SNAP benefits to more people Latino and immigrant community members.

In addition, Congress and the Administration should build on lessons learned during COVID-19 about which temporary adjustments to SNAP policy and operations have been effective and continue them on a permanent basis. These include, among other things, adjustments to interview and recertification requirements, accommodating telephonic signatures, and remote enrollment for Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP).

Closing SNAP Gaps will promote food security, health, and well-being for individuals. It also will have positive economic impacts. Each $1 in federal SNAP benefits during a downturn generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity. Now is the time for policymakers and stakeholders to redouble efforts to close SNAP Gaps.