HomeUS News updateExtra SNAP food stamp benefits are being cut, causing new worries for...

Extra SNAP food stamp benefits are being cut, causing new worries for people in need

When pandemic aid that boosted food-stamp benefits is cut next week, millions of low-income Americans will face smaller balances in the accounts they use to pay for groceries The demand for banks has increased.

Beginning March 1, emergency allocations for individuals and families enrolled in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will end in 32 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the US Virgin Islands.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning research and policy think tank, this means recipient households will see their monthly grocery allotment decrease by at least $95. In daily terms, this equates to trimming the roughly $9 per capita average to about $6.10. And the change comes as food prices rose 10% in January compared to the same month last year.

Charles Jones, a 63-year-old US military veteran based in Rockford, Illinois, received an increased monthly SNAP benefit of $281 under the temporary program. After it ends the following week, his payment will drop to $23—the minimum monthly amount.

“When they cut this extra benefit from SNAP, it’s going to get me in serious trouble,” he said.

Jones said his pandemic-era SNAP payments helped him move into a homeless shelter and a $650-a-month studio apartment earlier this month. He said he worries that when his allocation is slashed – likely because he also receives Social Security Disability Insurance payments – his rent and utilities will consume all his income, jeopardizing his new shot at stability. .

“It helped me a lot,” said Jones, who also relies on Boxed Pantry deliveries, but said she often can’t eat much of their stuff because of a heart condition. “You know how the government is. They want to keep the rich, richer and the poor, poorer.

Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary of the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the SNAP program, acknowledged that the emergency benefits had proved “powerful” for recipients.

“The difference it has made in reducing the increase in hunger and alleviating economic hardship and poverty cannot be emphasized enough,” said Dean. He said that although the program’s termination “would be very difficult,” the additional aid it provided was “always designed to be temporary.”

More than 42.3 million people participated in SNAP as of October, the latest period for which federal data was available. Participation had not previously crossed that level since the summer of 2020. According to the Congressional Research Service, the total cost of the program for fiscal year 2021 was $113.68 billion. This included nine months of a 15% increase in maximum benefits as part of the emergency allocation.

Research by the Urban Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank for economic and social policy, found that increased SNAP benefits could put 4.2 million people above the poverty line in the final quarter of 2021, adding 10% to overall poverty And child poverty decreased by 10%. 14%. The study also found that the emergency program helped reduce poverty rates most among Black and Latino recipients.

Illinois is one of 32 states that allowed enhanced SNAP benefits to extend through the federal March 1 deadline. But several others – including Florida, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi – had already chosen to end emergency allocations, in some cases as early as 2021.

Food banks in those areas say they have seen exponentially higher demand since SNAP benefits were curtailed, and relief organizations in the remaining states are now scrambling to strategize.

“We saw what happened in other states where they were eliminated so quickly,” said Laura Lester, chief executive of the Feeding Alabama Food Bank Network.

In Georgia, which ended its enhanced benefits last May, the Atlanta Community Food Bank told NBC News earlier this month that it had seen a 34% increase in visits through December. Wholesome Wave Georgia, a nonprofit that operates a program that matches SNAP dollars spent on local products, said the total number of families already receiving their typical annual income since the emergency allotment ended figures, although the group did not feature until recently. Seeking only SNAP changes.

“We are currently preparing ourselves for this,” Lester said.

To combat the emergency benefit termination, the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama has increased its annual budget to $10 million from last year’s $8.9 million. The organization said it spent more than $5 million last year on buying food to donate, up from $3.2 million in 2021.

Food Bank of North Alabama operations officials said they recently ordered twice the amount of food they typically buy at this time of year. The food bank also said that donations that would normally require a lot of personnel to bag and distribute – a large bin of sweet potatoes for example – have now been embraced. It is also planning a large mobile pantry for the first week of April, which is intended to coincide with the reduction in residents’ final enhanced benefit payments.

In October, the USDA issued a 12.5% ​​cost-of-living adjustment for the maximum SNAP benefit, but the full impact on recipients’ finances in a period of high inflation is unclear. Another adjustment is expected in the fall. In 2021, the USDA also made a top-to-bottom reassessment of Americans’ dietary needs and food costs and increased maximum SNAP benefits by 21%.

Still, some advocates and economists warn that the finances of many low-income Americans are in perilous condition, even as the country moves through the pandemic. Indeed, the USDA’s estimate for the cost of a “frugal” balanced monthly meal plan for a family of four with grade-school-age children has risen nearly 50% from before the pandemic, from $654 in January 2020 to $978 in January. . 2023.

“The termination or lack of availability of this benefit really couldn’t be more opportune.”

Bankrate Chief Economic Analyst Mark Hamrick

“SNAP is our most effective tool for fighting hunger,” said Dottie Rosenbaum, a senior fellow who studies the program at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Now that this temporary boost expires in all states, families who are already struggling to afford rising food costs and other expenses are going to feel a big impact.”

In a recent Bankrate survey published Thursday, 39% of American adults reported having less savings than in the previous year, and 10% who had no emergency savings last year also have no savings this year.

Bankrate chief economic analyst Mark Hamrick said that as financial buffers dwindle, the SNAP enhancement has provided a significant, if partial, cushion for many Americans. He said that cutting them now is “eliminating a social safety net component that is causing some people to face food insecurity.” “The termination or lack of availability of this benefit really couldn’t be more opportune.”



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