Date Hacioglu: SNAP is wrapped in stigma. We have found that the population group that, despite their justification, has the lowest participation rate is also the population group that expresses the greatest sense of shame when enrolling: seniors. The closer their income is to the income limit, the fewer benefits they will receive. When calculating SNAP benefits, more weight is placed on money that does not come from work, such as B. social security. Seniors can receive a monthly benefit of $ 16 (minimum amount) despite going through an 18-page application and followed up for hours through interviews and document filing.
Unsurprisingly, this can be very daunting. Some senior applicants do not understand how monthly medical expenses listing can make a difference in their total benefit amount. We are currently working on a project to help seniors understand the importance of having their medical expenses claimed on their application, explain what documentation is needed to review those expenses, and provide a user-friendly way to get them to submit.
Other obstacles lie in misconceptions about SNAP. It is important to note that SNAP is an authorization program. This means funding levels are needed and anyone who qualifies for SNAP is eligible for benefits. Many of our users feel that they would take money from someone who needs it more without realizing that it would be suitable for anyone who qualifies.
Who is SNAP for? There is great confusion about who is eligible.
SNAP is for low and no income households. Over 80% of SNAP households are elderly, disabled or children. In addition to hourly and gig employees, SNAP also covers Americans who are between two jobs. The program continues to extend to veterans and former inmates. One of the most important facets of SNAP is that it covers a varied range of Americans.
It makes perfect sense that the eligibility is very confusing. Eligibility mainly depends on a household’s gross monthly income and the state in which they live. We found that seniors receiving social security, workers and those who have recently become food insecure are the least likely to know they are eligible. Not only is it common for people to believe they are not entitled, but it is also common for people not to know what SNAP is. For this reason, a big aspect of our strategy is to combine public relations with awareness.
How can technology help make SNAP more worthy?
When implemented on purpose, technology can provide unprecedented access and empowerment. As the world draws closer to accessing the internet on mobile devices, we have found that government technology has not kept pace with the changing landscape and people have gotten out of hand. In order to use our technology to promote dignity, the most user-friendly, direct, and actionable information must be provided.
We have seen texts come in from users who said they did not have a computer to use to apply. Our focus on text messaging tools comes from the fact that Americans who earn less than $ 30,000 a year 23% are non-smartphone users. It may be hard to imagine for some, but there are many Americans who live on the other end of the digital divide: people who don’t have access to a computer, reliable internet, or smartphones. Hopefully, when we get these life saving programs into modes that people can actually access, we can begin to instill a sense of worth and dignity to those who may otherwise feel left behind.
One of our most exciting recent steps in achieving our mission to transform access to social services for the dignity of all people is the introduction of our customer relationship management system, Johnnie. For some people, applying for SNAP can be overwhelming and confusing. In those cases, we can use Johnnie to connect them with a local outreach who will guide them through the application and set expectations for what to do next. This enables us to combine the power of technology with human compassion.