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Seniors Qualify for ESAP, a Special Food Stamps Program

Seniors Qualify for ESAP, a Special Food Stamps Program

If you are a low income senior, you need to know about the Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP). This program is designed to make it easier for seniors to apply for and maintain food stamps.

The only problem?

Most people don’t know that this program even exists!

The ESAP Program is not widely known.

In fact, I didn’t know about the ESAP program until I received an email from a Florida resident named Marilyn. She had read about the program somewhere but couldn’t find anyone who knew anything about it.

Millions of seniors who are eligible for food stamps have not applied yet. This program should make the process much easier, so I was very excited to get this tip today.

California Social Security food stamps law change helps this woman buy groceries

What is ESAP?

The Elderly Simplified Application Process is designed to streamline the way that seniors apply for and receive food stamps. Although the program varies a bit between states, it usually includes three primary waivers.

According to the USDA’s annual State Options Report, “the ESAP streamlines the application and certification process by waiving the recertification interview, streamlining the verification process, and extending certification periods to 36 months.”

According to the ESAP Project Guidance Handbook published by the USDA, the application itself is also easier. It is a simple two-page application. Since some standard applications can be up to 30 pages long, this is a big relief for low income seniors!

You’ll only have to re-certify once every two to three years.

Most households who apply for SNAP (aka EBT, aka food stamps) will have to re-certify their information every 6 or 12 months. Many households experience an interruption because they forget to certify on time.

Seniors and disabled people with no earned income are likely to remain eligible for a long time, so a longer certification period just makes sense.

Under ESAP, states can extend the recertification period to 36 months. This means that those households are less likely to experience an interruption in food benefits. Some states have chosen to only extend the recertification to 24 months, but they have the option to stretch it to 36 months if they choose.

You won’t have to go through a full interview.

A full interview is usually required for each re-certification, which is why so many households experience a lapse in their benefits. Under ESAP, this requirement is waived. There’s no need for a recertification interview.

You may still have to go through an initial interview when you begin receiving benefits, though.

The verification process is simple.

Usually, when you apply for SNAP (food stamps), you’ll have to provide proof of your income, residency, identity, shelter expenses and more.

When you apply under ESAP, your verification is much easier. They use data matching to verify your data from other government data systems. If the information cannot be accessed or looks questionable, you may have to provide more documentation.

You will still have to verify your medical expenses. You’ll also need to verify your non-citizen status, if that’s relevant to you.

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Why haven’t I heard of ESAP?

Unfortunately, the official handbook encourages states to create a unique name for their ESAP program. The Guidelines encourage States to “create a name for the ESAP that explains it is a special food assistance program for seniors and/or the disabled with no earned income.”

The logic behind this is that seniors are more receptive to enrolling in a program that is not called ESAP. Unfortunately, this may explain why our readers have had such a hard time finding this program in their states!

Who qualifies for ESAP?

In order to qualify for the simplified application, everyone in your household will need to be at least 60 years old and have no earned income. Some disabled households without any earned income will also qualify for this.

You could qualify for SMD, also!

Of course, seniors and disabled households may also be entitled to the Standard Medical Deduction. This program provides a flat deduction amount if you spend more than $35 on medical costs every month. This standard deduction is designed to reduce the applicants’ paperwork burden.

In some states, you may be able to deduct the amount you’ve actually spent on out-of-pocket medical costs.

Either way, you can learn how to get more food stamps each month in this article.

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Which states offer the Elderly Simplified Application Process?

Because ESAP is administered at the state level, the program varies depending on which state you live in. Some states do not participate at all, or only participate partially.

The 2018 report outlines the states that participate in either the Elderly Simplified Application Process and/or the Standard Medical Deduction.

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These states offer both ESAP and SMD.

According to the report, the following states participate in both the ESAP and SMD programs:

Alabama

I am waiting on a reply from the Alabama government because I was unable to find information about the ESAP program on their official website.

Arkansas

Arkansas introduced an ESAP program in 2021. This program allows households who are disabled or over age 60. In order to be eligible, the household must not have any dependents age 15 or under and cannot receive any earned income or child support deductions.

California

California offers a simpler application for seniors and disabled households. If you are already receiving CalFresh, you can ask your caseworker to transfer your case to the simpler process at your next re-certification. Details here.

Georgia

Georgia’s ESAP program is called “Senior SNAP.” You can find more information, including a simplified application, on the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services’ website.

Illinois

Illinois calls their ESAP program the Illinois Elderly Simplified Redetermination Process (ESRP). This process allows eligible households to receive benefits for 24 months before needing to recertify their eligibility. Households must have no earned income and each member must be disabled and/or over age 60 in order to qualify.

South Carolina

In South Carolina, it’s simply called South Carolina ESAP. You can find an application and other information on the SC Department of Social Services website.

Texas

Texas offers the Texas Simplified Application Project (TSAP) which provides benefits for up to three years at a time. In order to be eligible, all members of the household must be age 60+ or disabled.

These states offer ESAP but not the SMD.

The following states have decided to offer the simplified program, but they do not offer a standard medical deduction rate.

Arizona

Arizona residents who are at least 60 years old and do not have any earned income can use the ESAP program. The application is simpler and shorter, and benefits will continue up to 36 months without interruptions.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security has clarified that working in exchange for something other than money, such as food or housing, is not counted as earning income.

Connecticut

Connecticut residents who are at least 60 years old or disabled can use the ESAP program to go three years between eligibility recertifications. There will be reduced reporting requirements and renewal flexibilities that will make it easier for eligible households to stay on the program.

Florida

I received a clarifying email from Melinda Klamer, Senior Management Analyst Supervisor for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

She affirmed that Florida does participate in this program. However, Florida does not have a specialized application. They also cannot provide the ESAP waiver to households who participate in SUNCAP, a special food program for people who receive SSI benefits.

In Florida, the ESAP process waives the requirement for ongoing recertification interviews. An initial interview is still required. Households who receive benefits under this waiver will receive an annual Interim Contact Form to fill out every year. They will also have to undergo recertification every 24 months, although this will not require an interview.

Maryland

The Maryland ESAP application can be found on their website. In order to use it, every member of the household must be at least 60 years old and have no income earned from work.

Mississippi

I found a PDF on a Mississippi government website explaining their process. They try to identify ESAP-eligible cases during the application and interview phases. However, the document states that you can call the ESAP Unit at (800) 948-4060 with questions.

New York

The New York ESAP Program helps low income households where every member is disabled and/or at least 60 years old keep their benefits longer. It reduces the paperwork load, improves the customer experience and improves the overall efficiency of the state’s program.

The simplified application and recertification form is available in both English and Spanish. It is just two pages long and encourages the office to use data matching to verify income and other information. This reduces the paperwork required and makes it easier for people to get help.

Pennsylvania

Seniors who apply through Pennsylvania’s Simple SNAP program will have a two-page application instead of a 24 page one! You can click here for more information, including an application.

Vermont

Vermont’s ESAP program is called 3Squares in a SNAP or 3SNP. This program offers a shorter application and waives several requirements that are not practical for eligible households. The recertification period is extended to 36 months to help households stay on the program longer and with fewer interruptions.

Virginia

Virginia has introduced an ESAP program as well. This program only helps when every household member is at least 60 years old. If you’re eligible, you can use a shorter application and stay on the program for three years without interruptions.

Washington

Debbie Pagel from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services sent me the following email:

The Elderly Simplified Application Program does not have a specific application as it only applies to eligibility reviews (re-certifications) and the waiver of the eligibility review interview.  The Basic Food assistance unit must meet the following criteria in order to have their re-certification interview waived under the Elderly Simplified Application Program or Elderly Interview Waiver:

  • All members of the household are elderly (age 60) or disabled, as defined in WAC 388-400-0040 at the time of processing the reviews;
  • No mandatory or applying household members have earned income;
  • The paper or electronic eligibility review is complete;
  • The household has provided all necessary verification or the verification is available through interfaces available to the department; and
  • No information provided is questionable.

We cannot terminate their Basic Food benefits for households meeting the above criteria for failure to complete an interview.

This information can be found under the Clarifying Information (#2) for WAC 388-452-0005.

The following states offer SMD but not ESAP:

  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming

And, alas, the following states do not offer either program:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Washington DC
  • Wisconsin

The program varies by state.

This screenshot from An Advocate’s Guide to the Elderly Simplified Application Project by the NCOA provides a detailed breakdown of how the program varies by state.

ESAP States for

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Nicole is the owner and lead researcher for Low Income Relief. She has over 20 years of professional research and writing experience, and she has been solely dedicated to investigating low income topics for the last 10 years. Nicole started Low Income Relief after a personal experience with poverty. When her husband was medically discharged from the US Army, their family experienced tremendous financial hardship. Nicole was able to gather help from multiple community agencies and move into a nearby low income housing unit in just two weeks! Since then, Nicole has been dedicated to helping low income families in crisis. She regularly spends hundreds of hours combing through countless resources to make sure that Low Income Relief has the most comprehensive and complete resource directories on the internet today. Prior to starting Low Income Relief, Nicole worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. Her work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, The Daily Herald, The Chronicle and more. Her work has also been featured by Google for Publishers and other leading industry publications.

Diane hallbach

Friday 6th of January 2023

When Weill we see this in Nevada

Catherine Marucci

Friday 6th of January 2023

Hi Diane. It's unknown right now if Nevada will be using ESAP.

Amelie

Tuesday 13th of December 2022

Florida never makes anything easy for low income people. I'm over 65, have been on food stamps for over 15 years. The application is a dual application for food stamps and medicaid, so I can't do ESAP because if you don't report changes to income for medicaid within 10 days, you can lose it for two years. So every six months, no matter what, I have to reapply. Once they let it go for a year, but now it's every six months. The only good thing is that they FINALLY got a system that saves your last application's information, so it makes it easier, but it is an extremely long and tedious application even so. I asked and they have no intention of making a separate ESAP application. You can apply for ESAP, but it's still the same, long, tedious application. I've just gotten into the habit of gathering all my relevant documents and faxing them in with my application. My worker says she loves me, because she only has to call me once a year, because I send everything in. She never has questions. My yearly check up lasts about 5 minutes on the phone.

YES, ALWAYS report any changes immediately. My rent runs from August thru July, and I report the raise in rent every year. It may only get you a few extra dollars, but every dollar counts.

Kim

Saturday 12th of November 2022

Is this extra if you already get stamps from the social services in your county or would you get something different?

Catherine Marucci

Saturday 12th of November 2022

Hi Kim. This is just an easier way of applying. If you already get food stamps, it will not get you extra.

Lindsay

Tuesday 18th of October 2022

And by disabled I mean those getting SSDI, not SSI. I don't know what the average amount of food stamps is for those on SSI, but I would think it's more than for SSDI.

Lindsay

Tuesday 18th of October 2022

And that's $23 for a one person household. The maximum income allowed for a 2 person household is much lower per person than for a one person household, so a lot of those people wouldn't even qualify for the minimum $23 per person.