AARP Maryland is urging state legislators to pass House Bill 101 by Montgomery County Del. Lorig Charkoudian that will help increase food benefits for some of the state’s neediest citizens (”Marylanders are applying for food stamps in record numbers as lawmakers question the state’s response,” May 14, 2020).
The bill establishes the federal Heat and Eat program in Maryland. Currently in about a dozen states, Heat and Eat allows recipients of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP, who also qualify for energy assistance, to receive additional food support. A 2016 study by the Maryland Department of Human Resources estimated that under the Heat and Eat provisions, 32,000 Marylanders would receive an additional $59 a month of SNAP benefits.
As the pandemic began last spring, Maryland Hunger Solution reported that SNAP applications rose by 600%. As of last June, 800,000 Marylanders were enrolled in SNAP, an increase of 14% over the previous year. In Baltimore, more than a quarter of households are enrolled in SNAP.
A recent study by the Food Research and Action Center reported that Maryland has the nation’s 7th highest food insecurity rate among 50-to-59-year-olds (33.89%) and 8th highest food insecurity rate among those 60 and over (18.69%). The SNAP program has been shown to be effective in reducing food insecurity for older adults who have limited resources to spend on necessities such as food, housing, medical costs and utilities.
Participation in SNAP by older Americans, who are less likely to give up their medicine for food, has been linked to reduced hospital and nursing home admissions, resulting in millions of dollars in taxpayer savings. AARP is urging passage of HB 101 to reduce food insecurity and improve food access to nutritious food for Maryland older citizens.
Jim Campbell, Baltimore
The writer is state president of AARP Maryland.
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