HONOLULU (AP) – The state of Hawaii said people have not completed the paperwork they need to continue receiving food stamps, raising concerns that thousands could inadvertently be excluded from public aid.
The concerns come after the federal government, citing the coronavirus pandemic, dropped the normal requirement that people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) complete an eligibility check and a six-month check. This was done to ensure that people did not experience benefit cuts during the public health emergency. It canceled the waiver that month.
The state Department of Human Services sent 2,200 letters for the six-month review last month, but only 700 were returned, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported. 15,000 letters were sent for aptitude test, but only 7,000 were returned.
“We usually get about 80% back in normal years,” said Brian Donohoe, the department’s benefits, employment and support services administrator. He called the response rates “shockingly low”.
Those who do not hand in their papers on time will be notified that their SNAP services have ended. No new credit is added while the individual’s electronic power transfer card continues to function. The person would have to reapply and would likely see a gap in receiving the benefit.
Donohoe is particularly concerned about the low level of paperwork returned as so many new people received SNAP benefits during the pandemic.
In June 2019, around 154,000 people received SNAP benefits. Last month, that number was around 205,000 people.
Although he said he wasn’t sure, Donohoe doesn’t believe that the lack of papers means people no longer need help.
“Our concern is that they just won’t fill out the paperwork,” he said.
Individuals will continue to receive notifications for the next six months to submit the required documentation based on when they started receiving SNAP benefits.
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