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SS BENEFITS: California Weigh Options on Reverse Food Stamp Policy and Effects on SSI Beneficiaries

August 10, 2010

Los Angeles – The California Department of Social Services is currently considering its options following a letter sent Friday by the US Department of Agriculture urging the state to reverse its food stamp policy which prevents poor citizen from applying for food stamps.

The agency however raised concerns that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, who were mostly the impoverished elderly and disable children, might be affected if federal authorities would allow the state to open the food stamp program. An estimated 99, 000 households could lose some or all of their benefits if the policy is reversed.

Some state officials said SSI recipients who live alone or with other recipients would now be eligible for more benefits if allowed to apply for food stamps. However, some might also be affected.

Federal law prohibits California from changing the rules for some and not all SSI recipients as it is the only state that allows its 1.2 million recipients to apply for federal food stamps.

In 1974, the state decided to match the federal cash assistance program with its own grant known as State Supplementary Payment, by $10 a month in place of food stamps.

California is the only state that does not allow its 1.2 million Supplemental Security Income recipients to apply for federal food stamps.

Last April, John Wagner, director of the California Department of Social Services, wrote to the DA to ask if the federal government would allow the state to open the food stamp program only to households that depend solely on SSI.

Presently, only households that include member who are not SSI recipients may apply for food stamps without the aid recipient’s income counted against the rest of the family’s eligibility or benefit levels.

Many people believed that household benefits could be reduced or eliminated if the state allows SSI recipients to apply for food stamps.

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