Sandy Flores, of City Seed, puts away a bag of $1 tokens at the close of the Wooster Farmers Market in New Haven. Melanie Stengel photo

More people in Connecticut can now qualify for the state’s food assistance program. That’s because the state is expanding eligibility based on monthly income.

Officials believe that about 44,000 additional Connecticut residents could be eligible for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, informally known as food stamps.

Dan Giacomi is Connecticut’s SNAP director. He addressed state officials and lawmakers at a meeting Monday.

Giacomi said the expanded benefits will be most helpful for families with children, since enrollment in SNAP benefits automatically means enrollment for free school meals, and to get assistance on energy payments.

“Just by allowing these 44,000 individuals to receive SNAP, we’ve opened up the door for them going out and receiving other programs themselves,” he said.

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Connecticut’s SNAP program serves more than 220,000 households, including more than 135,000 children.

Under the expanded eligibility, Connecticut residents will qualify for SNAP benefits if their monthly gross income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level – that’s $2,265 for a single person and $4,625 for a four-person household, state officials said. That’s an increase from the benefit level of 185% of the federal poverty level – or $1,986 for a single person and $4,086 for a four-person household.

“By continuing our partnership with the federal government, actions like this will help in our efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement.

SNAP participants in Connecticut and beyond will also see a 12 percent increase in their benefits because of inflation.

“Because of the rising cost of groceries and inflation in the summer period, we’re seeing a larger than normal increase in the amount of SNAP benefits individuals in Connecticut and nationwide are able to receive each month,” Giacomi said.