Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) data methods

Tracking payments or people?

This section is for people who wonder why counts in DHS reports for the same program and month from different divisions may be slightly different.

Some DHS reports about SNAP focus on payments and count how many people received a month’s worth of SNAP benefits from all the payments issued in a given calendar month, or “accounting month,” . Sometimes a household will receive payments for multiple benefit months in the same accounting month so people in that household would be counted twice in the accounting month but not at all in any month for which they received SNAP outside the accounting month. The monthly report Family Self-Sufficiency and Health Care Program Statistics uses this method.

Some DHS reports about SNAP, such as Characteristics of People and Cases on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, use a “people-based method.” These reports count the number of people who were eligible for SNAP in the month for which the payment was intended, even if the payment was actually received before or afater that month.

In most cases, people receive the SNAP payment in the month for which they were eligible for it, the month for which it was intended.

Different methods may yield different totals

The total number of SNAP participants reported by the two methods for the same month will differ somewhat because of these different purposes. A common scenario involves households that receive expedited SNAP after the 15th day of a month. In these cases, SNAP is issued for two months -- the current month and the next. Applicants have until the end of the subsequent month to return the required verifications to continue receiving SNAP. In this example, someone needing food in an emergency situation who applied and was approved for expedited SNAP benefits on April 20, for example, would receive benefits in April (by statute, within five business days) for both April and May but would not receive another payment until June (if still eligible in June).The “payment-based method” would count that person as a participant twice in April and once in June, but not in May since no payment would have been issued. However, the “people-based method” would count that person as eligible in April, May and June.

What is an Access Index?

Some reports refer to a Program Access Index. This is an estimate of the percentage of people potentially eligible for SNAP that actually receive SNAP. It is calculated using the actual number of people receiving benefits divided by the number of people in a county or state who are at or below 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.(ACS). Because ACS data is updated annually in September for the previous calendar year, some Access Index figures are labeled “preliminary” until administrative data kept by DHS can be reconciled with ACS data.

Rate/Report this page Report/Rate this page