When Patty Allegra-Babcock wants to use her food stamps, she has to cross town borders. She lives in quiet and tree-covered Pomfret, in a part of northeastern Connecticut where there are no stores that accept food stamps.
The nearest grocery store that accepts her benefits is a Walmart, miles east in Putnam. But Allegra-Babcock doesn’t have a car, so she relies on friends and family to drive her around.
“From where I live, closest [grocery store] is probably a good 15 to 20 minutes, traffic willing,” she said. “Usually, I would have to wait until somebody is available. You gotta work around people’s schedules.”
Allegra-Babcock isn’t alone. Out of more than half a million food stamp recipients in the state, nearly 3,800 live in towns where there are no retailers that accept this form of payment.
Food stamps, handled by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, have long provided financial assistance to low-income families and individuals. Depending on income and family size, residents get a fixed monthly amount to buy nutritious food in approved stores.
Most of the towns that don’t have food stamp retailers are in rural parts of the state, adding to the long list of challenges for people who live in these communities.
To remedy the issue, the legislature will consider House Bill 6854, which would create the Office of the Food Access Advocate. This office would support food insecurity programs and community-led efforts, provide an informational hotline and manage food insecurity data, among other things. It would also provide tax breaks for certain grocery stores opening in underserved areas.
This bill isn’t just targeted at fixing the issues faced by food stamp recipients. It aims to help the communities in “food deserts.”
Food deserts are census tract areas in which at least 100 households are located more than one-half mile from the nearest supermarket and have no vehicle access; or at least 500 people, or 33% of the population, live more than 20 miles from the nearest supermarket, regardless of vehicle availability, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
An analysis of federal data by CTInsider found that 8% of the state’s census tracts could be considered a food desert.
The role of community markets
For years, the absence of incentives or a state office dedicated to food insecurity left community markets to fill the gap.
Connecticut Foodshare, a statewide nonprofit that supports various local partners with financial assistance and resources, has been at the forefront of reducing food insecurity in the state. They have partnerships with more than 500 organizations, including one near where Allegra-Babcock lives.
That organization is called the Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group, a nonprofit that provides community support and resources such as diaper banks, clothing vouchers and scholarships.
One of its services includes various community markets powered by local donations. Open every day of the week in at least one of their locations in Pomfret, Woodstock and Thompson, TEEG provides food and beverage options to residents in need at no cost, regardless of whether they have food stamps. TEEG says that on average, they serve about 250 to 300 families a month between all three locations.
“The cost of food went up significantly. That's why we try really hard to get people to come in and to have a lot of those commodities that are quite more expensive — frozen meat, eggs, dairy, frozen vegetables — so that we can supplement that SNAP aspect,” said Chelsea French, community programs manager at TEEG.
Since Allegra-Babcock only receives $24 worth of food stamps a month, down from over $100 monthly before the reductions, and social security income that barely covers her other expenses, she goes to the community market for fresh produce and meats.
“You gotta pay your bills. The lights, the phone, mortgage, stuff like that. I live from paycheck to paycheck, basically,” Allegra-Babcock said.
To get to the community market, though, she still has to rely on somebody to give her a lift, since she doesn’t have a car.
This is a challenge faced by more than 53,000 households in the state that receive food stamps and don’t have access to a vehicle, according to U.S. Census estimates. For rural parts of the state, where homes and retailers are more widely disbursed than in urban areas, not having a car can hinder access to food and other essential services.
The current bus service in the area, Northeastern Connecticut Transit District, is not as reliable and consistent as other bus services around the state, residents say. It has fixed stops, and residents can request deviated pick-ups ahead of time, but shuttle arrivals are usually spaced by over an hour.
“They'll come pick you up, and it may be hours before they come pick you back up at the grocery store, which means you can't get anything perishable or frozen, because you don't know when you're going to get back,” said French.
Some retailers allow food stamps to be used for online purchases, which can then be delivered through partnerships with Instacart. Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided $5 million in support to the National Grocers Association Foundation to help expand the number of retailers that accept food stamps online.
In extenuating circumstances, TEEG staff have resorted to personal food deliveries to people's homes, primarily seniors and persons with disabilities.
In some cases, the issue isn't transportation. It's the quality of the food stamp stores.
Carl Asikainen, food systems coordinator at TEEG, said that even though some towns may have food stamp retailers, they are not always the best option due to lack of fresh and nutritious products.
This is the case in the nearby town of Thompson. There are four food stamp vendors: a gas station, a Dollar General and two small convenience stores.
“We've got Dollar General, but we know the food quality there is nothing fresh, right? ... We want people to have better options,” said Asikainen.
But even if a food stamp grocery store were willing to open up in some of these areas, they have to follow local zoning regulations.
In Pomfret, where Allegra-Babcock is from, different districts allow certain types of retailers to open shop.
Space for a supermarket or grocery store is limited.
Ryan Brais, the assistant planner and zoning officer for the town of Pomfret, said that a supermarket opening in the town is unlikely due to population, geographic location and lack of public sewer and water. Regardless, Brais said, the town will always consider applications for zone change and development.
"By nature, commissions do not typically take the initiative to add commercial areas to the map after the initial creation of the zoning map. They wait for someone to apply to rezone their land. The desire to rezone residential property to commercial is driven by commercial interest. Due to the town's rural nature, there have been very few requests to rezone property since zoning was adopted in 2003," Brais said.
However, agricultural retail such as farmers markets, where more than 50% of the products are grown on site, are possible in most of the town.
Cathy Smith, senior center coordinator for TEEG in Pomfret, said a farmers market that accepted food stamps would be beneficial.
"It's all about getting the fresher food, the organic food, the gluten-free food. It's harder for us to get all of that even in our markets," said Smith.
Allegra-Babcock does have a market store across the street from where she lives, but they don't accept food stamps.
"I would love to have something set up where Patty could go down to the local farm over here and utilize her SNAP," said Smith.
Local farmers markets still face financial and administrative barriers in beginning to accept food stamps.
A survey of 134 farmers in Alabama found that farmers markets frequently cited the following as barriers when attempting to set up their food stamp program: "lack of internet access, increased burden for processing payments, increased need for bookkeeping, limited availability of information about the application process and payment system, limited support from the market for completing the application, a small customer base and limited number of SNAP clientele," according to the survey.
And those barriers would only be faced after a retailer meets initial qualifications to become a food stamp retailer.
To qualify, a store must have a certain amount of staple foods, which do not include hot or prepared foods, or more than half of its sales must be from staple foods. Once that criteria is met, vendors must then purchase equipment that has the ability to accept food stamps and be subject to random inspections.
Barriers to becoming a food stamp vendor are not currently being addressed in the legislature.
Legislation under consideration
As it stands under House Bill 6854, the only grocery stores that would be able to receive the tax incentives when opening in food deserts are those that have "labor peace agreements" with a labor union. This type of agreement is not a collective bargaining agreement where workers are legally unionized. Instead, it is an agreement where an employer and a labor union agree to be peaceful in case the labor union attempts to organize the workers. A labor union agrees to not cause economic disruptions against the business, such as boycotts or work stoppages, while an employer agrees to remain neutral, allow the union access to employees and guarantee the union the right to be the collective bargaining representative of the employees.
On March 23, the Human Services Committee voted the bill to the House to be further discussed before it is sent to the finance and appropriations committees.
A group of legislators from the Human Services Committee unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill so grocery stores wouldn't be required to have a labor peace agreement with a labor union.
Sen. Lisa Seminara, a ranking member of the committee, argued in the meeting that requiring retailers to have a labor peace agreement creates a roadblock.
"We want to solve the problem of food insecurity and food deserts, but now we're going to have a roadblock because the only people that can apply for ... this incentive is if you're in a labor [peace] agreement," said Seminara.
Sen. Matt Lesser, one of the legislators opposed to the amendment, argued that the amendment would expand the scope of the bill, making it costlier and thus harder to push through the Finance Committee. He also said that the labor peace provision is in the state's interest.
"We don't want to have potential construction projects derailed by labor strikes ... I'm hopeful we'll have a compromise on that labor language, because I think it's important, but also, we want to make sure that people can still access the tax credit," said Lesser.
Heading to the House first to be further discussed, it still faces the finance and appropriations committees before votes in the full chambers.
Two other bills regarding food security have also made their way out of the Health Services Committee.
The committee approved a bill that would change the way food stamp benefits are given out to ensure that recipients can access food. Instead of giving everyone their benefits at the same time, the bill would give benefits to different recipients at different times during the month. This bill doesn't split the payments; everyone still gets one disbursement. A different bill also passed in the committee and headed to the Appropriations Committee would create a task force to study the elderly nutrition program and designate $2 million towards it.
The EBT card can be used to purchase eligible food at any retail food store. EBT benefits can be used to pay a SNAP claim. Advise EDGs at application and renewal how to properly use their benefits. Click here for more information on using SNAP benefits.Is CT getting extra SNAP benefits? ›
The last extra COVID SNAP payment will be in February 2023. Starting in March, your household will get only one SNAP payment every month (on one of the first three days of the month, depending upon your last name). That amount is your normal monthly benefit.Does EBT work in Connecticut? ›
Your EBT card can be used at any store that accepts the Connecticut EBT card. If you do not see a sign that states EBT is accepted, ask someone at the customer service desk if the store accepts the EBT card.What is the maximum income to qualify for food stamps in CT? ›
|Monthly Income Limits|
|Household Size||Gross Income Limit (applies to most households, except those in which at least one person is 60 years of age or older, or receives disability income)||Net Income Limit (applies to ALL households)|
If you qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, you can use your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card at participating Subway restaurants.Does Burger King take EBT in CT? ›
The RMP operates in Arizona, California, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island and Virginia. But out of these six states, QuerySprout noted that Burger King only accepts EBT cards in Arizona and California. Locations are also very limited.Do CT SNAP benefits expire? ›
EBT cards have no expiration date.How do I use my CT EBT card? ›
- Before you shop, check your last receipt to find out how much money is in your account, or call 1-888-328-2666 for your balance.
- Look for the Quest® mark on the door or the window of the store.
- At check-out, your card is swiped.
- Enter your secret PIN on the number pad, then press Enter.
- Call 1-855-626-6632. (TTD/TTY 1-800-842-4524 for persons with speech or hearing difficulties)
- Follow the prompts to get the information you need.
A: Yes, every one of our locations has the option to pay with SNAP/EBT.
The amount of assistance varies depending on which of three regions of the state they live in. The assistance for a family of three in the most populous region is $500 per month if in subsidized housing, $543 if not.Can I withdraw cash from my EBT card in CT? ›
All states issue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as food stamps, through EBT cards. SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase food items and cannot be used to withdraw cash.What is considered low income in CT? ›
|Annual Income Needed to Afford|
Adults with no minor children at home with income of less than about $1,677 per month for one adult (HUSKY D). Includes qualified noncitizens*.What is the income limit for food stamps in SC for 2 people? ›
|HOUSEHOLD SIZE||GROSS MONTHLY INCOME|
- Burger King.
- Carl's Jr.
- Little Caesars.
Yes, Trader Joe's accepts EBT! It's one of the six methods of payment you can use. The other five are: Credit and debit cards.Can NY EBT be used in CT? ›
YES! You have a right to use your SNAP in all 50 states. SNAP is a federal program that is “interoperable” between states.Can you buy candy with EBT CT? ›
"Junk Food" & Luxury Items
Nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, medicines and vitamins, household supplies, grooming items, and cosmetics, also are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items.
Walmart accepts EBT card purchases at all locations that sell food and grocery items. Your EBT card can be used the same way you would use your debit card, and EBT cardholders in 48 states can also pay for Walmart delivery and pickup orders online.
CalFresh can be used to purchase any food EXCEPT heated foods. Non food items like tobacco, alcohol, pet food, and toiletries are not able to be purchased with CalFresh.What is a connect card CT? ›
What's the Connect Card? The Connect Card is Connecticut's EBT card. EBT = electronic benefits transfer. EBT card = a card that looks and works like a debit or credit card but is loaded with food stamps (also known as SNAP benefits) and/or cash benefits. You can use it at stores that accept EBT.How much is Maryland SNAP benefits? ›
Ask your caseworker if you are eligible. Your benefits are determined by many factors, including household size, income and deductions. The average monthly Food Stamp benefit in Maryland is about $130 per person.What time do food stamps appear on EBT card Michigan? ›
Monthly benefit deposit schedule.
Benefits are sent out from the 3rd to the 21th of every month, based on the last digit of your ID #.
What payment methods do you accept? We accept all major credit cards and in the near future, will be able to accept EBT, SNAP, PayPal and Big Y gift cards as well.What is the hardship program in ct? ›
Financial hardship protection enables customers to participate in beneficial payment arrangements, summarized below, and offers protection from shut off during from November 1 through May 1. Customers will need to submit documentation to their utility to demonstrate eligibility, which must be updated each year.Who is eligible for ct cash assistance? ›
To be eligible for Connecticut TANF, you must be a resident of Connecticut, and a U.S. citizen, legal alien or qualified alien. You must be unemployed or underemployed and have low or very low income. You must also be one of the following: Have a child 18 years of age or younger, or.Do you have to pay back welfare in ct? ›
You will not have to pay back any benefits you were eligible to receive. Unless, there is a mistake and you receive more than you are eligible for, you will be responsible for paying that amount back.Does Costco take food stamps in CT? ›
All our warehouse locations accept EBT cards. Costco adheres to all state laws regarding what can be purchased with EBT cards.Does CVS take EBT in CT? ›
You may have heard that some states and retailers are not allowing EBT cards to be used at certain places. This can leave you wondering if CVS is one of these places you cannot use your EBT card. Fortunately, the answer is no, CVS does accept EBT cards as a form of payment.
31 ALDI Locations in Connecticut.How to get help with rent in CT? ›
- Call 2-1-1 (or visit: www.211ct.org)
- Knowledge Base Article on Housing Resources.
- Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH)
- Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA)
- CT Housing Search recommends affordable housing options.
- Section 811 offers project-based rental assistance programs.
Use the MyDSS mobile-friendly app: www.ct.gov/mydss. Apply & renew services at www.connect.ct.gov, plus get benefit status, notices, report changes, upload/send documents & more!What is Saga cash in CT? ›
The State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA) program is a cash assistance program operated by the. Department of Social Services (DSS). The program typically serves adults who are either permanently or. temporarily unable to work due to a documented medical condition and whose income and assets are.Where can I withdraw money from my EBT card for free in Michigan? ›
You may use your card to withdraw cash benefits at any ATM with the Quest sign. You cannot get cash from your food benefit account. You can make up to four withdrawals a month without having to pay a transaction fee.
Using a touch-tone phone, dial 1-888-328-6399. When prompted, select your preferred language– for example, press '1' for English. Next, enter the 19-digit number from the front of the card using your phone's keypad. After entering the card number, you will hear a series of options.How do I track my EBT card in the mail Ohio? ›
There are two easy ways to check: call customer service at 1-866-386-3071 or you may access your information online at www.ebt.acs-inc.com.What is a living wage in CT? ›
|1 ADULT||2 ADULTS (BOTH WORKING)|
|0 Children||2 Children|
Effective 10/2022 @ 110% the current payment standards are: 0 Bedroom-$1,908. 1 Bedroom – $2,339.What is the poverty line in CT for a single person? ›
|Family Size: 1||14,580||18,225|
|Household Size*||Maximum Income Level (Per Year)|
Federal Poverty Level thresholds to qualify for Medicaid
In 2023 these limits are: $14,580 for a single adult person, $30,000 for a family of four and $50,560 for a family of eight. To calculate for larger households, you need to add $5,140 for each additional person in families with nine or more members.
To qualify, residents must effectively earn less than $1,182 per month, around 97% of the federal poverty level. Individuals must have less than $1,600 in assets, and couples must have under $2,400. “No other Medicaid program comes close to having such low income limits.What is the highest income for food stamps for elderly? ›
According to federal rules, if you're an adult over the age of 60 and/or live with a disability, your household generally must meet the following two conditions when applying for SNAP: Your net income is less than or equal to the federal poverty line (FPL). Your assets amount to $4,250 or less.What is the income limit for one person on SNAP? ›
The federal government sets the SNAP income limits each year. Generally speaking, if you're an adult over 60 and/or live with a disability, you will be eligible for assistance in 2023 if your household income is less than or equal to the federal poverty line, and your assets amount to $4,250 or less.What is SC poverty level? ›
FREE ADMISSION FOR CT and RI SNAP EBT Cardholders*
CT and RI SNAP EBT cardholders are eligible for free general admission (subject to availability) for themselves and up to three guests. Must present SNAP card, matching ID, and admission ticket(s) at time of entry.
History. Target has accepted SNAP payment in our stores for years, and guests can currently use SNAP benefits in all of our 1,900+ locations nationwide.How much does it cost to go to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut? ›
Entrance fee is $35.00 at the gate for an adult. Child. 3-12 $25.00 . Child 13-17 $29.00.How do I use my EBT at Academy Museum? ›
Once all tickets are added, click on “Have a coupon code?” in the lower-left corner of the screen. Users may have to scroll down to see this. Type the first 6 digits of your EBT card number in the discount code box and then click “APPLY.” The code will discount the two most expensive general admission tickets to $0.
Child (age 2 and under) Free!
Trader Joe's is definitely cheaper than the average grocery store, but you might have to wait in a longer checkout line to take advantage of them.Do all target locations accept EBT? ›
Target is a leading grocery retailer in the U.S. and accepts SNAP EBT cards as payment at authorized store locations.Can you use snap on target app? ›
Yes. Once you are done adding items to your order, select Charge more to EBT card on order details to charge more of your order to your EBT card.How do I use my EBT cash in CT? ›
- Always follow directions on the ATM.
- Enter your secret PIN.
- Press Withdrawal.
- Press Checking.
- Enter the dollar amount you want.
- Take your cash from the machine.
- Wait for your card and receipt.
- Check the receipt to make sure it is the same as the amount you got.