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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.

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The only problem?

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

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The ESAP Program is not widely known.

In fact, I didn’t know about the ESAP program until I received an email today 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.

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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 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.

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.

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You will 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!

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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 SMP, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

I’m waiting for a reply from the Maryland Department of Human Services.

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.

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.

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:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

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

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • 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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Have too much month at the end of your money? Me too - and that's how Low Income Relief got started. I have over 20 years of professional research and writing experience. Over the years, I've worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. My work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, eHow.com, Livestrong.com, Legal Beagle, The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), The Chronicle (Centralia, WA) and others. At Low Income Relief, I use my professional research and reporting experience to help low income families save money and make ends meet. It's been my full-time job since 2016, and it's truly an honor to serve you.

Marilyn Evans

Saturday 15th of January 2022

I m in Virginia and I am on the ESAP program

Kathy Weber

Monday 22nd of November 2021

Hello, Six years ago we were on food stamps my husband who lives with us got us off food stamps by refusing to give his financial information. He still refuses to give his financial information now. I have tried many times, he will not do it. I only have Social Security as my only income for myself and my disabled son. Is there a way I could apply just for myself and my son?

Isaac

Monday 13th of December 2021

Information on this should be in the article above. Chat with Lira, she might be able to help! https://lowincomerelief.com/chat/

Paul R Veenendall

Monday 22nd of February 2021

My State does not participate in either program so it cannot be of benefit to me. I am 66 old.

Hannah Benge

Friday 26th of February 2021

We are so sorry to hear this! -Hannah

Tiredmom

Tuesday 15th of September 2020

Im disabled .my 6 yo is disabled.my ssi pays for my 18 yo, her baby& my worker stop are fs here in Michigan.im tired of burnt out workers and crooked managers here in Michigan.$73 for a family of four.she wont give them to us& I have to.because of covid.pay for and make a sensory/autism room for my kid to, but they don't care.i wish i had help.but I sent in pictures of my out of pocket bills - I pay for my glasses and my kiddos special glasses insurance won't cover the rubber kind& she refuses to add it.they purposely out here do stuff like this all the time to us, but the girl whos healthy in her early 20s with 4 kids by 3 guys.gets like $400-500 per month.while smoking weed.

Duane

Saturday 11th of December 2021

@Tiredmom, I had to go over the caseworkers head one time and go to the main head honcho, told him I had a problem with a case worker and what the problem was and he fixed it and set her strait too, sometimes they let things they shouldn’t cloud there judgment! I have been there and learned to fight not accept her rudeness and judge mental attitude! Find out who is over there head for me it was Michigan I threatened to call Lansing that makes them nervous and I did it! Within 5 minutes he straitened it out! I got what I needed!

Hannah Benge

Wednesday 16th of September 2020

I'm so sorry to hear about your troubles. Those kinds of things are so hard to deal with. I hope that you can find help here on our website and YouTube. Let us know if you have questions! - Hannah

Laura

Tuesday 2nd of June 2020

I was denied for benefits for both food stamps ,and medical. I did not get my information in on time. ..cognitive issues. How soon can I reapply. My Dr needs Labs. Lupus is DX. And I am past all meds. I am not on SSI but my husband is on SSDI. Both are over 60. Thank you.

Susan

Monday 28th of December 2020

Laura, in my state, Michigan, when you even partially apply and sign your application for food stamps, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has to help you get medical and other verifications if you ask them for help. But you must ask them for help. I would write a letter (it can be freehand) to the state department in charge of food stamps telling them you have a disability or medical impairment which makes it hard for you to get the information. Date it and keep a copy. Go to a non-profit agency for aging people and ask who can help you fill out your application. No computer? The aging office may be able with accessing that too. Apply right away again and ask for a faster answer from them, "expedited application". Are you 62 and eligible for SSI or SSDI. Two years after you get SSDI or immediately when you get SSI, the federal government adds your Medicare (medical help). Keep calling and finding people who volunteer or are paid to help people like you.

Hannah Benge

Sunday 7th of June 2020

Keep applying!! Don't give up! I wish you luck. - Hannah