SNAP sees dramatic increase in people seeking food assistance

close up of vegetables
(Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay)
close up of vegetables
(Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay)

The number of Nevadans currently being evaluated for food stamp eligibility is double what it was this time last year. The stark figure further highlights the swift and severe economic strain being felt by working families across the state in light of business shutdowns over COVID-19.

On March 23, there were 15,047 people in the process of being evaluated for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to Nevada’s Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, which oversees the program. On that date last year, there were 7,638 people in the process of being evaluated.

Two-thirds (10,041) of those 15,047 people applied for food assistance within the seven days prior to March 23. That represents a 400 percent increase from last year, when 2,689 of the 7,638 people in the process of being evaluated had applied within previous seven days.

Nevada has been able to keep up with the flood of SNAP applications, and wait times for approval aren’t longer than usual, says program administrator Robert Thompson.

Last week, Nevada received emergency approval from the federal government to automatically recertify anybody whose SNAP (or Medicaid) benefits were set to expire in April or May. Normally, people enrolled in those programs must reapply every six months. That reduction in reviewing cases has freed up staff to focus only on new applications, says Thompson. Similarly, the department has waived the formal applicant interview normally required, and put all non-critical office activities aside.

“We’ve pulled all staff onto this,” added Thompson. “It’s all hands on deck.”

SNAP has also waived the work requirements, reducing an additional barrier for applicants.

As of March 23, there are 411,788 people already receiving food assistance through SNAP. That’s 13.6 percent of the state’s population. Many of those beneficiaries will be grocery shopping in the next 10 days as they receive their monthly allotment from the state.

Like most other state offices, the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services has gone remote and is offering services only online and over the phone. Anyone who wants to see if they are eligible for SNAP (and Medicaid) can do so at accessnevada.dwss.nv.gov

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.