In Brief

Bill expanding SNAP to more college students advances

By: - December 14, 2021 7:00 am

Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, a Republican, represents District 26 in Morris and Somerset counties. (Photo courtesy NJGOP)

Assembly lawmakers took another step toward loosening work requirements for college students in need of nutritional assistance Monday.

In a near unanimous vote Monday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced a bill that would allow students at higher education institutions, including community colleges, to qualify for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) without meeting a 20-hour work requirement if they’ve received an award from the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund.

“It’s been an issue even pre-COVID, but since the pandemic, we’re hearing from more students. It’s been quite a struggle,” said Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Morris), the bill’s prime Assembly sponsor.

Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris), who shares a district with Dunn, was the only member to vote against the bill when it came before the appropriations panel Monday. The Assembly Human Services Committee unanimously approved the bill last August, but it has yet to come before a committee in the upper chamber, where it also holds bipartisan sponsorships.

“The future of America is an educated workforce, and that goes towards that,” said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), another prime Assembly sponsor. “I believe that, in this case, feeding people, allowing people to get a decent meal because they can’t afford it is the right thing to do morally, and also legally.”

The bill will have limited effect in the short term. Because SNAP is a federal program, New Jersey has no authority to waive its work requirements.

Even if it passes, the federal government must agree to waive the work requirements, which the state will have to request be waived within 90 days of the bill’s passage.

“We also know the cost of food is burdening everyone because of all of the inflation, so this just really is timely and critical,” Dunn said.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.