With federal waiver likely to end, DHS asks USDA to reconsider
7/22/2020 3:15:20 PM
More than 20,000 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Minnesota Family Investment Program recipients must renew their applications in August to ensure they receive their benefits for September onward, unless the federal government allows Minnesota continued flexibility in how the benefits are administered.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services will notify SNAP and MFIP recipients who reached the end of their certification period any time from March through August via a written notice in the mail beginning next week. Some of the Minnesotans receiving these benefits are elderly, children, people with disabilities, and workers with low wages, many of whom have already been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“We appreciate that the process of re-certification will be a hardship for recipients who may be hard to locate or who may have barriers to producing their applications without technology and with county and tribal offices still partially closed,” said Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “We are sending notices now to make sure that people who are entitled to SNAP and MFIP benefits understand what they need to do to continue receiving them so they will not lose these vital supports.”
In March, the USDA approved waivers that allowed SNAP and MFIP recipients to continue to receive benefits without having to gather the documents to verify their ongoing eligibility as normally required. Prior to the COVID-19 waiver, Minnesotans who applied for and were eligible for SNAP and MFIP were “certified” to receive benefits, periodically renewed their applications, and notified counties and tribes if their circumstances had changed.
To renew, current SNAP and MFIP recipients must complete the Combined Application Form or 6-month Report, which they will receive in the mail, and provide proof of changes, such as a decrease in income, increase in housing costs, or change in number of members in their household as they did prior to COVID-19.
At the same time as notifying recipients, the department is working with the United States Department of Agriculture to reconsider states’ requests for continued flexibility for the SNAP and MFIP recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The USDA has been denying waiver extensions allowing states to suspend renewals. Minnesota, like most states, has requested an extension.
The department has also asked for approval to permit county, tribal and community SNAP eligibility staff to complete applications over the phone, and accept verbal signatures.
To avoid a second burdensome round of re-certifications and to mitigate confusion, renewals will also begin again for Minnesotans receiving cash assistance through General Assistance, Minnesota Supplemental Aid and Housing Support in August to ensure benefits are issued in September. Many of the recipients of these supports also receive SNAP and MFIP, and they could take care of all of their benefits at one time. DHS will notify all households that have to recertify their eligibility in August, alerting them of what they need to do. For more information, program participants can contact their county or tribal social service agency.
Information about SNAP and other hunger resources is available on the DHS food emergency webpage. Information about MFIP can be found on the department’s MFIP webpage. Food help is also available through the Minnesota Food HelpLine, 1-888-711-1151 or www.mnfoodhelpline.org.