HAP is a non-profit social service organization focused on empowering disadvantaged refugee and immigrant communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Established in 1990 to support Hmong refugees migrating to Minnesota, HAP has grown into a nationally recognized expert in culturally affirming engagement with Southeast Asian and other immigrant groups and serves more than 25,000 people annually. HAP’s mission is to empower the community to embrace the strengths of our cultures while achieving our potential. The HAP program model emphasizes wrap-around services to holistically support individuals and families as they transition from poverty to prosperity. SNAP Outreach is part of this comprehensive approach, as we recognize that without baseline support in meeting basic needs, members of our community will struggle to obtain the training and experience needed for living-wage jobs in today’s economy.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Outreach Program has been a part of HAP since 2017. SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps or Food Support, or in the Hmong community often known as nyiaj muas noj, is a federal program that provides benefits to supplement the food budget of eligible households. SNAP is the largest federal nutrition program that provides a monthly supplement for eligible households to purchase nutritious food. SNAP benefits come in a form of a debit card known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. It can be used to purchase food at grocery stores, convenience stores, some farmer’s markets, and co-op food programs. The SNAP Outreach program is focused on educating communities about the purpose, use and benefits of SNAP, providing facts about SNAP to dispel myths or misconceptions that were associated with the program, providing access to SNAP information, and providing assistance with completing the SNAP application through the county.
Since 2017, our SNAP Outreach program has assisted 795 families and individuals in the community with applying for benefits through the county, with over 2,110 household members now receiving benefits. We have done community outreach to over 25,937 community members to educate them about the benefits of SNAP and dispelling myths about accessing SNAP benefits. We are continuing to reach more community members to support families and individuals who need additional food dollars due to the impact of COVID-19.
The impact of COVID-19 brought on new challenges to families and individuals, however, there has been many new implementations to address health and safety concerns. Recently, online food purchases were approved through Walmart and Amazon Prime where individuals can shop online and pay with their EBT cards. Additional programs that were implemented was Emergency SNAP and Pandemic EBT or P-EBT. Emergency SNAP was implemented during COVID-19 for the months of April and May to give existing SNAP recipients the max allowed allotment of benefits for their household size. The P-EBT program offered a one-time payment of $375 per eligible every child who were on free reduced lunch or attended a school with free lunch. Households with active SNAP cases before March 18, 2020 were automatically issued P-EBT benefits. Summer P-EBT benefits, a one-time payment of $100 per eligible child were also issued in August.
Since the pandemic, we have shifted our SNAP services to the community remotely by phone or Zoom. Our SNAP Outreach Coordinator, Tina Lee, continues to provide support to increase accessibility to individuals and families who may or may not have been impacted by COVID-19. Tina offers SNAP application assistance by either helping families or individuals complete the application by paper or online through ApplyMN. Our SNAP services have expanded beyond SNAP application and outreach to assist families and individual in applying for P-EBT and with educating and informing families about Emergency SNAP. Tina speaks Hmong and English and can support in either languages. Our services are also offered in other languages, such as Somali, Karen or Karenni. Questions or concerns can be directly sent to Tina at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 651-417-5196.
This project has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the USDA. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the USDA, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.