Applications for the SNAP program, formerly called food stamps, have seen a 96 percent increase over the past two years, said Beth S. Barry, director of the Gloucester Department of Social Services.
Total households in the county receiving SNAP benefits as of Oct. 31, 2010 were 1,931, Barry said Nov. 19. Gloucester Social Services receives more than 110 new applications for SNAP each month, with roughly 75 percent of those being approved and about one-quarter of the applicants not meeting the program criteria. SNAP, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, is administered using regulated plastic cards to which the appropriate allotment can be added each month.
In some cases, persons are abusing SNAP, Barry said, trying to let somebody use their eligibility card for food, while the cardholder is paid cash to purchase non-SNAP items such as alcoholic beverages or tobacco products.
To help stretch SNAP recipients’ budgets, a nutritionist with Gloucester Extension visits clients at the department on a regular basis, but that resource is not being used sufficiently, Barry said.
She said that a search of SNAP records in recent months showed that 4,047 residents in Gloucester received SNAP benefits in July 2010 compared to 3,079 citizens in March 2009. The total benefits appropriated in July were $532,416, she said, compared to $335,609 in March of last year.
SNAP benefits are paid with federal dollars, Barry said, but local social service departments have to absorb some administrative costs in administering the program.
Gloucester is being asked to handle many more SNAP recipients than in nearby larger counties such as York and James City, Barry said, and SNAP benefits must be delivered to citizens in a timely manner to be in federal compliance.