Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller sent a letter to Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey and Senator Pat Toomey to urge them to grant DHS continued flexibility to manage changing needs during the COVID-19 health crisis, especially pertaining to Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) waivers.
“The economic impact of this crisis has not yet been fully mitigated and for that reason, we expect SNAP enrollment to continue to grow. We urge you to support the adoption and extension of these waiver flexibilities, which will be necessary to support the provision of critical benefits to Pennsylvania households in need,” wrote Secretary Miller. “Granting Pennsylvania the flexibility of these waivers will ensure that DHS can continue to effectively manage the COVID-19 public health emergency and its ensuing economic impact.”
DHS specifically requested that senators Casey and Toomey pass resolutions that would extend existing waivers DHS has found valuable in managing people’s changing needs during the health crisis, including:
- The ability to extend SNAP benefit certification periods and adjust periodic reporting requirements;
- The ability to allow household reporting through periodic reporting; and
- The ability to adjust interview requirements for SNAP.
Without the continuation of these waivers, DHS may need to authorize overtime or hire additional staff to keep pace with existing work due to an expected increase in need for assistance programs over the fall and winter months. Charitable food networks may also be further stressed, as they play an important intermediary role in keeping people fed as households await SNAP eligibility determinations.
SNAP helps more than 1.9 million Pennsylvanians expand purchasing power by providing money each month to spend on groceries, helping households have resources to purchase enough food to avoid going hungry. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. As the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential needs like food is more important than ever to help keep vulnerable populations healthy and mitigate co-occurring health risks.
Applications for SNAP and other public assistance programs can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Those who prefer to submit paper documentation can print from the website or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mail it to their local County Assistance Office (CAO) or place it in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. While CAOs remain closed, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files while CAOs are closed.
Read a copy of Secretary Miller’s letter here.