An increasing number of States allow online SNAP applications and e-signatures
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest of USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs, providing monthly benefits for purchasing food to those who apply for the program and meet the income and other eligibility criteria. In fiscal year 2012, 46.6 million Americans were enrolled in the program during an average month. ERS’s SNAP Policy Database provides monthly (January 1996-December 2011) information on policies in the 50 States and the District of Columbia that may influence SNAP participation. For example, online applications allow individuals to complete and submit an application for SNAP benefits over the Internet. Applicants then undergo an interview at the SNAP office or over the phone to complete the application process. In many States with online applications, the applicant is allowed to submit the application with an electronic or “e-signature,” instead of mailing a supplemental form with an actual signature. Online applications first became available in January 2002 and were available in 34 States by December 2011. Twenty-four of these 34 States also allowed applicants to submit an e-signature. The State-level information contained in the database can facilitate research on factors that influence SNAP participation and on SNAP's effects on a variety of outcomes, such as food spending and health. The information for this chart can be found in ERS’s SNAP Policy Database.