The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released new data on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the Food Stamp Program. In 2009, Colorado ranked last among the 50 states in participation. Less than 42 percent of eligible Coloradans are participating in SNAP/Food Stamps. Nearly 480,000 additional people in Colorado – the majority of who are children or elderly – could be accessing SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. These families and individuals are needlessly suffering from hunger.
In addition, Colorado has left more than $755 million in federal funds unclaimed due to low participation in the program. This is money that would have been brought into Colorado and spent in local food retailers. In fact, it is more than the annual revenue of 36 full-service grocery stores, which would have created jobs and generated additional economic activity. In a time, when individuals, families, and communities are struggling to make ends meet, Colorado cannot afford to be missing out on the benefits of this important program.
Last June we celebrated the signing of HB 1022. Colorado lawmakers signed this bill to improve access to food stamp benefits by forming community partnerships with an outreach plan and to expand access to families and individuals with some savings by removing the asset test.
In September, the State submitted a food stamp outreach plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The outreach plan is an opportunity to expand access to the SNAP/Food Stamp Program to hungry families in our state and bring in a federal match for any private funds devoted to this important issue. The plan submitted in September included funding for one outreach worker in Weld County. This is a start, but does not fully address the severity of the need to expand access to SNAP/Food Stamps throughout Colorado. Considering that some states have used the state outreach plan to leverage significant funds (California brought in $19 million in federal match this year alone), a more robust outreach plan can be created in Colorado. Hunger Free Colorado is committed to working with the state on expanding outreach efforts that will create meaningful access to the food assistance that our community needs.
HFC is disappointed to report that the State has not yet removed the asset test, as the law required effective October 1, 2010. The asset test requires that families with $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for elderly households or persons with disabilities), spend down their savings before they are able to access SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. This means that an elderly couple with a burial plot, or a homeless family saving up to put a deposit on an apartment, or a parent who needs a car to get to work, cannot access SNAP/Food Stamp benefits without selling their property or spending down their savings. The Colorado Department of Human Services has stated that they do not plan to implement this change until late January 2011. Eligible families are being denied the food assistance they need. As a result, Colorado’s 64 counties are also out of compliance with the law.
Call Gov. Ritter’s office at (303) 866-2471 or Write to the Governor. The message is simple: Colorado Department of Human Services must comply with House Bill 1022 that Governor Ritter signed into state law and remove the asset test. Thank you for recognizing the importance of hunger issues in Colorado and for taking a moment to weigh in with the Governor on this important issue.
Please contact Kathy Underhill with Hunger Free Colorado (Kathy@hungerfreecolorado.org) with any questions.