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Research Letter
March 9, 2020

Socioeconomic and Health Characteristics of Families at Risk for Losing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Intern Med. 2020;180(4):604-605. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.7152

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a US federal aid program annually serving 40 million persons with well-established health, nutrition, and financial benefits.1 Families are eligible for SNAP benefits under federal rules if they have minimal assets and net incomes below the federal poverty level. Families are also required to have gross incomes below 130% of the federal poverty level; however, this requirement is waived for seniors and persons with disabilities.2,3 In 42 jurisdictions, categorical eligibility programs extend SNAP supports to otherwise ineligible families who receive benefits under certain social assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.2,3 Recently, policy makers have attempted to limit SNAP eligibility and benefits. In July 2019, the US Department of Agriculture proposed new rules limiting qualifications for categorical eligibility.2 Under the proposed rules, 1 in 10 US families currently participating in SNAP may experience discontinuation of benefits, raising concerns for adverse effects on health and the ability to pay for health care.2-4 We therefore sought to compare the health, nutritional, and financial vulnerabilities of families at risk for losing SNAP benefits with those of families meeting federal eligibility standards.

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