SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits – took center stage on Thursday with a state plan to replace stolen benefits and congressional legislation to introduce benefits for striking workers.
The program provides food benefits to low-income families to supplement their grocery budget so they can afford the nutritious food essential to health and well-being.
The Shapiro administration announced that SNAP recipients who have had their benefits electronically stolen are now able to have those benefits replaced. Eligible SNAP recipients who have had their benefits electronically stolen on or after October 1, 2022, will be able to replace their stolen SNAP benefits through federal funds, provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.
“SNAP is the nation’s most important food security program, helping more than 1.9 million Pennsylvanians put food on their tables to help them stay safe, healthy, and fed. But too often, bad actors attempt to take advantage of SNAP recipients by engaging in scams and theft of these benefits,” said DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “I am incredibly pleased that we can now restore these benefits to the people who need them most. I encourage anyone who may qualify to reach out to DHS right away so you can restore the benefits you’re entitled to.”
SNAP benefits are eligible for replacement if they were stolen due to electronic fraudulent activity, such as skimming, card cloning, phishing scams and scamming.
The maximum amount a household can receive in a single reimbursement is up to two months’ worth of their regular SNAP payment or the amount that was stolen, whichever is less. Benefits lost to electronic fraud cannot be replaced more than two times in a federal fiscal year, which runs from October 1 to September 30.
In Washington, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senator John Fetterman, along with Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Greg Casar (D-Texas), introduced the Food Secure Strikers Act of 2023 legislation to allow striking workers to qualify for SNAP benefits.
The bill comes as several high-profile strikes are currently taking place in Pennsylvania and across the country. Right now, workers with United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Local 506 & 618 at Wabtec in Erie; workers with Communications Workers of America at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and workers with the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild nationwide are all on strike.
“Every union worker who is walking the picket line this summer needs to know that we have their back here in Washington,” said Fetterman. “The union way of life is sacred. It’s what built Pennsylvania and this nation. It is critical for us to protect workers’ right to organize, and that includes making sure they and their families have the resources to support themselves while on strike. As Chair of the Nutrition Subcommittee and an advocate for the union way of life, this bill is just plain common sense. I’m proud to introduce this bill that will eliminate the need for workers to choose between fighting for fair working conditions and putting food on the table for their families.”
Currently, striking workers and their households are excluded from SNAP eligibility and cannot receive SNAP benefits unless they were previously eligible before the strike. While union funds can sometimes reduce the financial stress of striking, workers often still face serious financial insecurity when on strike due to loss of income. Further, many striking workers are not union members, meaning they have an even smaller safety net, if any at all. The Food Secure Strikers Act of 2023 would repeal the restriction on striking workers from receiving SNAP.
“When workers make the difficult decision to strike, they are often doing so for fairer wages and benefits because they cannot afford to live and raise their families,” said Sen. Bob Casey Jr. who also co-sponsored the legislation. “Often times, employers believe they can wait out workers who struggle financially to lure them into a worse agreement. Workers shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and a fair deal – that’s why I’m co-sponsoring the Food Secure Strikers Act.”