In an effort to bring all the information in one place, we designed FoodStamps.org to place all the information in one place about food stamps and SNAP in one place. During this research, it was apparent how different and accessible this information was on the web pages for these state food programs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently reviewed the state government SNAP websites and found the same differences. Some make the information very available and even open up about the different services, including eligibility calculators and asset limit explanations. Others are less helpful and many also don’t have a very functional online application to get food stamps either. CBPP deliberates more on the matter and talks about which states really do a better job of providing information on food assistance programs.
All states have to make information public on department SNAP sites, but there are those who go in depth to include applications, state policy manuals and regulations. CBPP looked at each state’s program and showed links to the information and services that the states provide, including different features such as benefit calculators and office locators. CBPP found that the states varied greatly from one another. Where one state provided maybe a line or two about the program, others really wanted people to understand how to apply, where to apply, who was eligible and how to get emergency assistance.
Of the 50 states, 48 provided printable applications. Vermont and Kansas were the only ones that did not provide this service. Only 35 states provide online applications. Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oregon were among the states that do not provide online applications. Eligibility screening tools, which allow people to enter various factors and see if they should apply, were only available in 29 states. It was curious that New Mexico would have an eligibility calculator but not an online application. Benefit calculators were available in only 11 states, although the USDA readily makes one available on its website—to which only 10 states provided a link for. In addition, online policy manuals were made available in 46 states, and online statistics were made available in 36 states.
While the states pages each give some basic SNAP information, including eligibility requirements and a description of how to apply, it didn’t always go beyond a history of the program. There was also a lack of conveying a philosophy towards helping others and low-income families. Instead, many of the sites focused on the restrictions. CBPP commented that Nevada was one state that was very welcoming to visitors, including a message of how the SNAP program was supportive and helpful to those who needed assistance.
Other states provided forms that were also useful for those who may need other assistance. Maryland provides printable applications for hearing request forms or forms to report changes to household circumstances. In other states, these forms were only available at the office. Maryland is able to reduce its administrative burdens simply by providing these forms in an online format.
It can also get very confusing about the names of the program, since not every state has conformed to “SNAP.” In some cases, the program goes by CalFresh—California’s “SNAP” name. Not all states have changed the name away from “food stamps,” which was supposed to be removed back in 2008, when the USDA changed food stamp program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Of all the states, only 29 have actually changed over to SNAP. Others use Food Supplement Program, such as Delaware and Maine, or Food Stamp Program, as in New Hampshire and Utah. Food Assistance Program is used in Florida, Alabama, Colorado and Kansas.
CBPP conducted an in-depth research of the state programs to provide more information just like FoodStamps.org. For a program that serves 45 million Americans, the information is often too confusing or much too simple. People require more convenience, and technological advances that are five years ago should be made available in every state. It’s important to consider that these states may not have the funding to provide as many resources as others, but how hard can it be to update information on a webpage?
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