A Hartford convenience store that accepts SNAP benefits. Julia Werth / CTMirror.org

As one of the states choosing to ease eligibility requirements for the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program last year, Connecticut has expanded the number of recipients by 8,959 individuals and 4,980 households, state officials said Tuesday.

Connecticut chose in October 2022 to raise gross income limits for SNAP from 185% of the federal poverty level to 200% — a monthly income of $2,430 for an individual and $5,000 for a four-person household.

“Prior to this expansion, a family of four with an income of $60,000 would not have qualified for SNAP, and now they do,” said Andrea Barton Reeves, the commissioner of social services.

While the program is fully funded by the federal government, SNAP is administered by state and county governments that have considerable discretion over income limits and other rules that affect eligibility for a program that largely benefits the working poor.

[RELATED: How to apply for SNAP benefits in Connecticut]

Between 17% and 23% of all cashiers, cooks, health aides and janitors in the U.S. are eligible for SNAP, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

Overall, the program now provides nearly $20 million in annual benefits in Connecticut to 229,000 households with 140,700 children. The average monthly benefit is $185.

“Food insecurity is not something just in the Thanksgiving and the holiday season. It’s year round. And that’s why we’re here today,” Gov. Ned Lamont said.

Lamont and Barton Reeves spoke to reporters at the East Hartford offices of End Hunger Connecticut!, a non-profit agency that, among other things, operates a SNAP call center.

According to a report issued in September by the Congressional Research Service, 24 states have set their gross income levels at 200% of the federal poverty rate.

The federal poverty level of $30,000 for a family of four is an oft-criticized metric. The United Way of Connecticut recently estimated that a “survival budget” for a family of four in the state requires an annual income of $126,018.

Lamont said the administration is not planning any major anti-hunger initiatives in the coming legislative session, which opens in February and runs into May. Connecticut adopted its biennial budget this year, but lawmakers and the administration can make revisions in the second year.

The budget does have money to expand day care funding the second year, he said.

Connecticut, whose various agencies cannot readily share data on individuals eligible for assistance, has been trying to develop a universal system that would more easily identify services for which applicants were eligible.

“If you need Medicaid, then you also might be eligible for SNAP or some kind of housing assistance or other things that the state might offer. How old are you? You might be looking long term services and supports,” Barton Reeves said.

That is the goal, she said. As to the status?

“We are farther away than we’d like to be, but closer than we have been,” Barton Reeves said. “If that’s a very lawyerly answer, that’s what I am.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.