There is a significant effort being made to ensure that the over 30 million people in the United States who received increased assistance from the government with their shopping costs during the pandemic are not taken aback by this development.
Officials in 32 states and other jurisdictions have been using multiple forms of communication, including voicemails, texts, snail mail, flyers, and social media posts, all of which have been translated into multiple languages, in order to inform recipients that their additional food stamps will be terminated after the payments made in February.
Ellen Vollinger, an official with the Food Research & Action Center, a nonprofit group, stated that “one of the scenarios you don’t want to see is that the first time they’re aware of it is in the checkout line at the grocery store,” which is a situation that “you don’t want to see.”
Our estimate reveals that the move will result in a monthly savings of approximately $90 for the typical recipient, but that this figure might be significantly higher for many people. The United States Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, has stated that benefits will go back to their normal amounts, which are mostly determined by a household’s income as well as its size and certain expenses.
An announcement made public in Michigan asked the state’s 1.3 million recipients to “search essential resources” in order to make up for the reductions in funding. Lewis Roubal, who works for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, was quoted as saying, “We want to make sure our clients are prepared for this change, as we realize inflation is affecting all of us,”
The $250 in monthly food benefits that Jacqueline Benitez, age 21, who works as a preschool teacher in Bellflower, California, has earned every month since 2020 through CalFresh, the state’s SNAP program, are likely to undergo a large reduction, possibly even halving the amount.
“It’s such a lifesaver,” said Benitez, who was previously homeless, but now lives in a subsidized one-bedroom apartment. “Food is such a huge expense. It’s a little nerve-wracking to think about not having that.” Benitez stated that she is already having second thoughts about spending $5 on fresh produce. “What happens if it goes bad?” she said.
Congress passed the emergency program at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. A year later, it was made bigger. At first, the extra benefits were meant to keep going as long as COVID-19 was a public health emergency. It will now run out in May.
But 18 states have already cut payments for more than 10 million people, and Congress has decided to end the program early. The extra benefits will be traded for a new permanent program that gives low-income families extra money to pay for summer meals for their children.
Experts say that, despite the pandemic, most Americans had enough food to eat because of the emergency funds. In 2020 and 2021, about 10% of U.S. households had trouble getting enough food. This was about the same as before COVID.
With inflation and other things, SNAP benefits can go up and down. In October, the maximum benefits went up by 12%. This was because of the annual cost-of-living adjustment, which was made higher because food and other goods cost more. But people whose payments were cut because of Social Security’s 8.7% cost-of-living increase on January 1 lost money.
Stacy Dean, the deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services at the USDA, said that in most of these situations, people should have the same amount of money to spend.
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“The emergency allotments were always intended to be temporary and they did tremendous good during a very difficult time in our country”
“The process of unwinding from them will certainly be difficult for families who are counting on those benefits.”
The change is happening at a time when inflation, even though it is getting better, is still high and food prices are still high.
Shelley Boyd, who is 45 and lives in Beaver, Pennsylvania, plans to go to her local food pantry more often beginning next month. Last year, after both she and her fiance lost their jobs and their unemployment benefits ran out, they all started getting food stamps. About $630 is given to the family each month. They think that they will lose at least $95, if not more.
“That’s where our food pantry comes in.” “We go see them and do what’s necessary.”
At the same time, Vince Hall, who works for Feeding America, a network of more than 200 food banks, said that food pantries across the country are still under “immense strain.” Demand for help is still much higher than it was before the pandemic, even though food banks are still having trouble with their supply chains, paying more for food and transportation, and getting less food donations.
GRACE is an anti-poverty group based in California. Its managing director of public policy, Andrew Cheyne, urged recipients to contact county offices right away to update their eligibility and make sure they’re getting the most benefits possible. Food stamp benefits can be affected by changes in the costs of housing, child care, elder care, and other things.
Recipients can also look into other benefits, like the federal Women, Infants, and Children program, and look for tax credits that can be refunded. Cheyne and other supporters said that the emergency benefits shouldn’t have been cut off too soon but should have been kept going for a long time.
“It’s just an unimaginable hunger cliff that folks were going to go over at some point,” he said.
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