CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More people in West Virginia are now eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as SNAP, to help with monthly food costs.

On Tuesday, HB 2459 took effect which lifted previous SNAP ineligibility for people with drug felony convictions on their records in certain cases.

“As long as that felony doesn’t deal with SNAP fraud, loss or life, or a felony that resulted in injury to another person, then the person will, in fact, be eligible,” said Jeremiah Samples, deputy secretary for the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

On the high end, Samples estimated up to 15,000 additional residents could qualify for SNAP if other program requirements were met.

However, he expected the enrollment number to be lower than that.

In 2016, for example, more than 2,100 people applied for and were denied SNAP because of the ban.

“We do think that this will provide these individuals with a lifeline so that they can get back on their feet and, hopefully — ultimately — we want all of our clients to become self-sustaining and not need DHHR services,” Samples said.

“I think it will be positive for a number of folks in the state.”

Overall, SNAP eligibility is based on household size, income, assets and some household expenses.

SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase food for human consumption and seeds or plants to grow food at home.

SNAP benefits cannot be utilized for purchases of household items, grooming products, tobacco, alcohol products, pet food and other items.

SNAP applications were available at local DHHR offices, by calling DHHR to request an application by mail or online HERE.

Currently, 285,000 residents receive a share of the $32.7 million in federal money provided every month to West Virginia for direct SNAP benefits, according to Samples.

Of that total number, about 102,000 are kids and 27,500 above the age of 65.

He said 44,000 were able-bodied adults without dependents. That population of people is required to work or volunteer in a number of counties to quality for SNAP, a mandate which will roll out to all 55 counties by 2022.

Also on Tuesday, new income eligibility guidelines took effect for the separate Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC.

Under the new levels, DHHR officials estimated a a family of four could earn up to $47,638 annually and qualify for WIC, an amount that’s higher than last year.

Each month, WIC currently serves 35,000 mothers and young children in the Mountain State including 75 percent of all babies born, the DHHR reported.

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