Katherine Fung, Newsweek, February 5, 2024
Hundreds of migrant families in New York City will be getting more food money than the city’s low-income residents do from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The city is launching a new pilot program that will hand out pre-paid debit cards to 500 migrant families with children, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Monday. The mayor’s office told Newsweek the program allots about $12.52 per card each day, giving each recipient roughly $350 a month to spend on food and baby supplies—a figure more than the maximum allotment that low-income New Yorkers receive in SNAP benefits.
Single households in New York are eligible to receive up to $291 a month, according to the state’s website. SNAP benefits give “low-income working people, senior citizens, the disabled and others” money to purchase food products and do not apply to alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, nonfood items like household supplies, foods eaten in stores and hot foods. Adams’ office said that those low-income New Yorkers typically also qualify for other food assistance, like restaurant and shelter programs, while asylum seekers do not.
Like SNAP, the new cards being distributed to migrant families also have restrictions. Use is limited exclusively to local bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores to ensure that city funds are going to food and baby supplies. The mayor’s office has stressed that the cards will act similarly to SNAP benefits and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards and that the program is a “cost saving measure” that will save the city $600,000 a month.
Adams called the plan “brilliant,” arguing it was a “cheaper, more efficient way” to get resources to migrants because it would eliminate the delivery costs associated with providing food for asylum seekers, reduce food waste in situations where food aid recipients do not like the meals provided and put money back into the local economy.