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Policy Updates: 200% gross income & mileage inrcreases; At-a-glance FS/SNAP

TO: Food SNAP Coalition Members
FR: Pat Baker

In follow up to the January 25th Coalition meeting, here are some important Food Stamp/SNAP policy updates to share on the numbers:

1. Slight cost of living adjustment (COLA) in 200% FPL gross income test: The US Department of Health and Human Services issued the new Federal Poverty Level increases on January 20, 2011. The federal poverty level (FPL) has increased by 1.6% for 2011. 

How does this affect food stamp/SNAP benefits? This slight FPL increase affects the 200% gross income test for "categorically eligible" FS/SNAP households. This means families with children, pregnant women and households with elder/disabled person (elder/disabled HH's are not subject to the asset test if gross income is below 200% FPL). It also affects the gross income eligibility thresholds in other safety net programs such as TEFAP, WIC, EA shelter, Medicaid/MassHealth and more. DTA has implemented the increase in the 200% FPL SNAP level effective 1/20/11. Here's the link to the new monthly gross income amounts: [Editor's Note: Link is no longer active] Please note, the FPL COLA does not affect the 130% FPL gross income test and net income tests for FS/SNAP - these levels will be adjusted 10/1/11.

2. At-a-glance Food Stamp/SNAP benefits charts: We've updated three charts to give you a "snap-shot" of monthly FS/SNAP benefit amounts for:
working families with children - FS amounts based on varying hourly wages, HH size and child care expenses;
recipients of Unemployment Insurance - FS amounts based on sample weekly UI benefits, HH size and min/max shelter costs; and,
elder/disabled individuals - FS amounts based on individuals unearned income above the SSI income levels, sample shelter costs with the maximum SUA and the standard medical expense deduction).
These charts may be useful for getting a general sense of what the monthly FS/SNAP benefit might be, but NOTHING substitutes running the numbers. Here's the link to MLRI's FS/SNAP Excel file calculator (which the COLA as well as the increased SUA for Bay State CAP households). And attached is a revised Food Stamp/SNAP calculation worksheet (with the increased FPL highlighted in yellow).

3. Federal mileage rate increase by 1 cent! Okay, not a big deal - but might as well be accurate. IRS has increased the federal mileage rate for 2011 from 50 to 51 cents. This increase impacts the amount a FS/SNAP client can claim as a deduction for medical expenses and dependent care expenses. Remember: public or private transportation costs can be claimed for any elder (60+) or disabled person using a private vehicle to a doctor visit, therapy, other health care treatments as well as to a pharmacy or medical supply. This includes use of a private vehicle owned by the FS/SNAP household. We had incorrect information at the January Coalition meeting and erroneously thought the mileage was 48 cents. Apologies.

REMINDER: Next Food SNAP Coalition Meeting, Tuesday March 1st (yes, the day after Feb 28th) at ABCD, 178 Tremont Street, Boston (yes, a change in location for this meeting)! More to follow as we near the date of Coalition.