Older Adult Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Series

Older Adult Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Series

In 2020, almost 9.5 million adults ages 50 and older have been food-insecure. Five million of them have been 60 or older. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest antihunger program and gives monetary help to many low-income and food-insecure people and households to assist purchase the meals they want. Yet eligible older adults have traditionally had a lot decrease participation in SNAP than these in different age teams, at the same time as diet has an necessary position in wholesome growing older and SNAP enrollment amongst older adults is related to fewer hospital and emergency room visits and long-term care admissions. 

A collection of three AARP Public Policy Institute and Mathematica Spotlight stories analyze SNAP participation amongst older adults and the insurance policies that have an effect on it. The first report, Participation: Who Are the Eligible but Unenrolled?, makes use of quantitative knowledge to higher perceive the traits of older adults who’re eligible however aren’t enrolling in SNAP. The second, Access: Who Are the Low-Income and Unenrolled? A State-Level Look examines the SNAP entry charge (the share of lower-income individuals receiving SNAP) and the extent to which this system reaches people in want. The third and closing report, Solutions: State Policies Associated with Higher Participation, identifies relationships between sure state SNAP insurance policies and the SNAP participation charge amongst adults ages 60 and older.

All three Spotlight stories conclude with actionable implications for coverage.

About the info: Each report displays knowledge from 2018, and the financial circumstances have modified considerably since then as a result of pandemic’s financial disruptions and heightened inflation. Nevertheless, this evaluation contributes to a better understanding of older adults who aren’t collaborating in SNAP and factors to potential causes for his or her lack of participation.

Spotlight I – Participation: Who Are the Eligible but Unenrolled?
Qualitative analysis has recognized widespread causes for low participation in SNAP, comparable to a complicated and burdensome software course of, stigma, and discomfort with expertise, but little is thought in regards to the traits of eligible older nonparticipants. This quantitative evaluation assesses the financial and demographic traits of adults ages 50 and up who’re prone to be eligible however not collaborating in this system.

Key Findings

 In fiscal 12 months 2018, 16 million (or 63 % of) adults ages 50 and older who have been eligible for SNAP didn’t take part in this system.

• Eligible older adults ages 60 and older had particularly low ranges of SNAP participation.

• Most eligible nonparticipants ages 50 and older could be eligible for the minimal month-to-month SNAP profit ($15 in 2018), however greater than 3 million would obtain greater than $200.

• Eligible nonparticipants ages 50 and older have been extra possible than these underneath 50 to be lacking out on doubtlessly substantial SNAP advantages.

Implications for Policy and Future Research

1. SNAP outreach efforts needs to be focused to these on the lowest revenue ranges and adults ages 60 and older.
More than three million of the 16 million eligible nonparticipants reside in households that might be eligible for over $200 a month in SNAP advantages. These people is likely to be extra motivated than individuals with larger incomes to take part in this system. And with 14 million of these 16 million being age 60 and older, this older age group must also be a spotlight of outreach.

2. SNAP processes needs to be streamlined.
For instance, a complete of 9.7 million older nonparticipants lived in households with solely members ages 60 and older and no earned revenue; they’d be eligible for an illustration challenge known as the Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP) if it have been obtainable in all states. (Other obtainable state insurance policies are mentioned within the third report.)

3. SNAP advantages needs to be significant.
The expectation of low profit ranges is a generally cited purpose for nonparticipation amongst eligible older adults. A 2018 evaluation discovered the typical low-income meal price $2.36, so the minimal month-to-month SNAP good thing about $15 in 2018 would have coated fewer than seven particular person meals.

Spotlight II – Access: Who Are the Low-Income and Unenrolled? A State-Level Look
The SNAP entry charge is outlined because the share of individuals with family incomes lower than 200 % of the federal poverty degree (FPL) who take part in SNAP. However, not all older adults with incomes beneath 200 % of FPL are eligible as a result of revenue limits and different eligibility standards range by state. This report finds substantial variations from state to state and confirms that most of the lowest-income Americans aren’t accessing SNAP. 

Key Findings

SNAP entry charges amongst older adults are low however range broadly by state.
Nationally, almost one-third of low-income adults age 50 and over have been enrolled in SNAP. But state entry charges are influenced by quite a lot of elements, together with common revenue and state SNAP insurance policies. As a consequence, they differed considerably by state, from 12 % in Wyoming to 51 % in Rhode Island and 61 % within the District of Columbia

• Older-adult SNAP entry charges are decrease amongst two-person households.
In 10 states, the entry charge amongst older adults dwelling alone was at the least 30 proportion factors larger than for these dwelling in two-person households.

• Older-adult SNAP entry charges are low amongst individuals with the bottom incomes.
In all however three states, entry charges amongst older adults in households underneath 50 % of FPL have been decrease than these of individuals in households with revenue between 50 and one hundred pc of FPL, confirming that many older adults with very low incomes might be lacking out on a considerable SNAP profit.

• Many older households receiving SSI additionally obtain SNAP.
Older adults in households with recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a federal program that gives funds to low-income older adults and folks with disabilities, have a excessive SNAP entry charge of 81 %.

Implications for Policy and Future Research

1. Use choices obtainable to states to increase eligibility and to take away obstacles to SNAP entry.
For instance, expansive BBCE insurance policies (broad-based categorical eligibility, described in additional element within the third report) —particularly people who waive the asset restrict—typically predicted excessive SNAP entry charges. In one other instance, half of the states that had SNAP entry charges above 90 % for older adults in SSI households operated SSI-CAPs (Supplemental Security Income-Combined Application Project), an illustration challenge to ease entry for one-person SSI households.

2. Target outreach to teams with low entry charges, together with lowest-income older adults.
Federal and state coverage makers ought to guarantee satisfactory funding for outreach and software help and work with community-based organizations to succeed in the possibly eligible however unenrolled.

3. Conduct additional analysis assessing causes for variations in entry charges.
Cross-referencing SNAP entry charges with state insurance policies may assist refine hypotheses on what elements trigger completely different entry charges, and assess whether or not variations for sure teams are pushed primarily by completely different eligibility charges than by completely different participation charges.

Spotlight III – Solutions: State Policies Associated with Higher Participation

This closing report identifies relationships between state-level SNAP administration insurance policies and the SNAP participation charge amongst adults ages 60 and older who’re eligible for SNAP. It focuses on these ages 60 and older as a result of a few of the insurance policies particularly goal that age group. The evaluation examines 4 state insurance policies of curiosity, all designed to make it simpler for eligible individuals to enroll in SNAP in addition to scale back administrative burden and the quantity of “churn,” or frequent entry and exit, from SNAP:

a. Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP) – for SNAP households with solely individuals ages 60 or older (or 50 and older with a incapacity) and no earned revenue.

b. Supplemental Security Income-Combined Application Project (SSI-CAP) – usually for one-person households eligible for SSI (low-income older adults or individuals with disabilities).

c. Standard medical deduction (SMD) – for SNAP households with at the least one individual age 60 or older or an individual with a incapacity.

d. Broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) – for households assembly extra expansive revenue and asset thresholds for different means-tested packages, comparable to SSI or noncash Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) advantages.


• The evaluation discovered that two insurance policies of curiosity – BBCE and SSI-CAP – have been related to larger older grownup SNAP participation. It discovered no statistically important associations between having an ESAP or SMD and SNAP participation amongst older people.

• Extended certification durations and state-level program administration have been additionally related to larger SNAP participation amongst older adults.

Implications for Policy and Future Research

1. States that haven’t applied BBCE ought to take into account doing so.
This Spotlight is likely one of the first research on the impact of BBCE on participation charges amongst older adults, and it finds that holding different variables fixed, states implementing a BBCE coverage are prone to see a rise in SNAP participation.

2. Policy makers ought to proceed efforts to strengthen the SSA-SNAP partnership and to discover knowledge sharing and matching alternatives.
Federal regulation already requires that SSI candidates be given the chance to file for SNAP at their native Social Security Administration (SSA) workplace, however this joint software course of has not all the time labored as seamlessly as meant.

3. States ought to take into account extending SNAP certification durations.
States can lengthen certification durations for older adults and folks with disabilities by current regulation and state demonstration tasks. At the identical time, the federal authorities ought to take into account permitting states to increase certification durations for households with older or disabled members past 24 months with no demonstration challenge.

4. States shouldn’t low cost ESAP and SMD.
Although our evaluation didn’t discover an affiliation between ESAP or SMD and elevated SNAP participation amongst older adults, states ought to take into account these insurance policies as potential choices to satisfy different objectives, together with: serving to candidates and SNAP company employees by simplifying the applying course of and lowering administrative burden; lowering SNAP churn; and rising advantages for the highest-need beneficiaries.

Suggested quotation: 

Dean, Olivia, Andrew Gothro, Rachel Bleiweiss-Sande, Sophia Navarro, and Martine Reynolds. Older Adult Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Series. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, July 13, 2022. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00166.000


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