Entitlement benefits to change in 2020

Published 3:17 am Wednesday, January 1, 2020

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A federal cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security and veterans benefits for 2020 will result in decreases to some Louisiana residents’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, as well as benefits through the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP).

The COLA is an annual adjustment based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, as determined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The 2020 COLA will result in a 1.6-percent increase in monthly Social Security Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance (RSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. The increase in income will affect eligibility and federal benefits for some Louisiana households.

In January, 94,827 SNAP households (about 25 percent of all SNAP households in Louisiana) will see an average reduction of $9 in monthly benefits, due primarily to the COLA. Another 226 SNAP cases will close, as the increased income pushes those households over the eligibility limit. The COLA also will trigger reductions in benefits for 11 Louisiana households that receive FITAP.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) receives an electronic file from the Social Security Administration that contains individual benefit amounts. Those income changes have been automatically updated on the SNAP and FITAP cases and will be effective January 2020.

Also in January, about 550 Louisianans who receive SNAP benefits through the Louisiana Combined Application Project (LaCAP) will see changes in their monthly benefit amount due to changes in the program’s shelter expense thresholds. These changes are unrelated to the 2020 COLA.

LaCAP is a simplified version of SNAP for Louisiana residents who are at least 60 years old and receive SSI. As a demonstration project, LaCAP is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to remain cost neutral. That means the amount of benefits issued through LaCAP must not be higher or lower than would be issued through regular SNAP.

Based on the results of a recent cost neutrality survey, FNS recommended new shelter expense thresholds to keep LaCAP cost neutral. The monthly benefit allotment amounts did not change. However, 553 recipients (out of 6,589 total LaCAP cases) now fall into a different allotment tier based on the new combined expense thresholds, with 541 of those recipients seeing a decrease in benefits and 12 seeing an increase. The remaining 6,036 recipients will see no change in their benefits based on the new shelter expense thresholds.

For more information about LaCAP or about regular SNAP, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/SNAP.

For more information about the federal COLA, visit the Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov/cola and the Veterans Administration at www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp#cola.