COVID-Era SNAP Benefits Are Ending This Month

Here's what people need to know.

A storefront with a SNAP and EBT accepted sign

Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

Not knowing where your next meal will come from is a gut-wrenching feeling. Trust me, I would know. As a child, I watched my family scramble to figure out budgets and stretch cheap meals, all while working endless hours. 

And unfortunately, it is also the reality for over 41 million Americans using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to afford groceries, according to the USDA.

The threat of not having food was exacerbated for many during the pandemic, with household food insecurity rising from 11% in 2018 to 38% in March 2020. To remedy this, Congress passed a law providing emergency allotments (EAs) to all SNAP households to help alleviate the difficulties faced during the pandemic, which offered a bump in the food stamp budget for families during trying times. Now, those added benefits will soon disappear. 

Three years into the pandemic, nearly 13.5 million households are still navigating economic instability and access to food. And, this past Christmas, when many Americans were opening up gifts, Congress passed another law that would end EAs nationwide by March 2023. 

The USDA shared in a press release, "The end of EAs and return to normal SNAP benefit amounts will still be a substantial change for many households."

This decrease in SNAP benefits has already begun in 18 states, as shared in a timeline released by the USDA explained. The temporary benefit boost ends after the February 2023 food stamp issuance for the remainder of the U.S.

"Increased SNAP benefits have helped millions of individuals and families keep food on the table despite the severe economic impacts of the pandemic and inflation," Vince Hall, Feeding America's chief government relations officer, shared with Food & Wine. "The end of this pandemic-era assistance nationwide means nearly $3 billion per month in food purchasing power will disappear from the American economy."

Additionally, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priority explained, those EAs kept 4.2 million Americans above the poverty line in 2021 and helped to reduce poverty by 10%. The states with EAs also saw child poverty reduced by 14%. It added, "Without the EAs, SNAP benefits will average only about $6.10 per person per day in 2023."

Erin McAleer, the CEO of Project Bread, an organization that works to solve hunger through access and advocacy and supported my family growing up, additionally shared that she was not surprised by EAs ending. However, McAleer noted, it will continue to operate its FoodSource hotline to help families get their maximum eligible benefit, and will continue to advocate for policy initiatives like the Healthy Incentives Program, which provides a dollar-for-dollar match in SNAP benefits for families to use at farmer's markets.

"We encourage legislators to continue to seek ways to improve access, expand eligibility, and further increase the benefit amounts of SNAP," McAleer added.  

McAleer noted, increasing the benefits through the Thrifty Food Plan would bring SNAP clients closer to benefit adequacy. In reaction to the budget cuts, McAleer added that SNAP recipients "will be hit hard by these changes." 

In light of the SNAP slashes, the USDA recommends families use other Food and Nutrition Services, like WIC, school meals, and TEFAP. Project Bread also urges its clients to continue using their FoodSource hotline amidst the changes. 

"Families will have to make changes to their budgets, and with a household, that can have an impact on how they pay for rent, utilities, school fees, and beyond," McAleer said. "Even with the public health emergency ending, we cannot return to our old systems of food access."

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