Colorado Lags in Providing SNAP Benefits

A report by Jennifer Brown for the Colorado Sun news outlet found that Colorado ranks in the bottom five states in its slow processing of applications for food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.) The state is actually under a corrective action plan imposed by the federal government. While some counties such as Arapahoe, Denver and Weld do process more than 90% of new applications within required timeframes, others such as El Paso and Jefferson counties achieve only a 50% rate. And when it comes to processing renewals of SNAP benefits on time, Pueblo and El Paso counties are reported to have rates as low as 26%. The most deficient counties say their employees are working mandatory overtime in trying to keep up with the backlog. “Colorado is one of about a dozen states with a county-run, state-supervised food assistance program,” the Sun reported, “which results in wide variations across the state’s 64 counties.” Per federal guidelines, households should be able to receive food assistance within 30 days for regular applications. Counties say they are overwhelmed in part due to the expiration of federal public health emergency assistance available during the pandemic. Adding to the crunch, the Sun stated that participation in SNAP in Colorado is at an all-time high, with the state now serving over 300,000 households, up from just over 225,000 in 2019. A new automated data entry program is being pilot-tested with hopes it might speed up processing of applications. “Colorado has struggled with its food assistance program for years,” according to the Sun, “[and] the problems have led to suggestions that Colorado overhaul its county-administered, state-supervised model in favor of a statewide processing system. But there has never been the political will to attempt to make it happen.”

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