Thousands could lose food stamp benefits this month as eligibility waivers expire

The development comes as enrollment in the program is higher than ever in Hawaii.
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 4:29 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 9, 2021 at 4:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly 8,000 people receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could find their accounts empty come the first of next month.

That’s because pre-pandemic rules are now back in effect.

The federal government allowed for waivers to certain eligibility checks as SNAP applications soared due to COVID-19 closures.

Hawaii added more than 50,000 individuals to SNAP, also known as food stamps, between March 2020 and June 2021.

And the numbers continue to grow.

Last month, there were 205,282 people receiving benefits ― the most ever. In May, it was 203,885.

HI residents receiving SNAP benefits in 2021 (Source: HI Dept. of Human Services)
HI residents receiving SNAP benefits in 2021 (Source: HI Dept. of Human Services)(None)

“We’ve seen an enormous increase and a lot of those are new to the program,” said Brian Donohoe of, the state Department of Human Services’ Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division.

Donohoe said those who signed up during the pandemic have never had to fill out the eligibility forms required every six months.

If they don’t know they have to do it, they could mistakenly ignore or discard the notifications in the mail or from their online account. The forms update the person’s employment, income and housing status, among other things, twice a year.

Last month, 17,200 notices were sent out to those due for the six-month check. Of those, less than half have been completed and returned ― only 7,700.

Users have until the end of July to update the information or they could see a lapse in benefits.

“If folks don’t realize that they needed to send the form in, then I’ve got ... 8,000 people that are going to be calling our offices the start of the month wondering where their benefits are,” Donohoe said.

Notices will be sent out next week for those hitting the six month mark in August.

If your account lapses, there is a short grace period to complete the form.

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