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REPORT: Unemployment benefits will affect SNAP eligibility

By Troy Torres

(Tumon, Guam) Food stamps recipients who also will avail of the two federal pandemic unemployment programs may lose their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits (SNAP or food stamps).

The income they will receive from unemployment checks will be counted as eligibility income for food stamps, according to Department of Public Health and Social Services spokeswoman Bertha Taijeron.

If the income a food stamps recipient receives from either unemployment program puts the recipient at the next income eligibility bracket, that recipient may lose some or all of their monthly SNAP benefits.

"Confirmed that both unemployment benefits may be affected as it is a countable income," Ms. Taijeron said.

There are two programs for unemployment benefits:

  1. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which will provide up to $345 per week for qualified worker between February and December 2020; and

  2. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which will provide an additional $600 per week for qualified worker between April and July 2020.

Ms. Taijeron said the guidance came from DPHSS Chief Human Services Administrator Tess Archangel, and that the guidance follows U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Services (FNS) rules.

Congressman Michael San Nicolas, however, said that while the PUA benefits are supposed to count as income, when determining SNAP eligibility, the FPUC is not.

"The local government needs to get clear on what applies and what doesn't," Mr. San Nicolas said. "The Congressional Committee on Ways and Means is clear. This is not something the local government can get wrong as it impacts the most at-risk in our community."

According to the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means regarding the FPUC:

"The federal supplement would not affect eligibility for other benefits like Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, and housing assistance."

Kandit asked Ms. Taijeron for guidance DPHSS has received from FNS and the U.S. Department of Labor to justify its stance. She said the written guidance would come from Ms. Archangel, though DPHSS has not sent any such document to Kandit since Monday.

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