On March 1, an estimated 40 million Americans in 32 states will see the extra help they got through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program disappear. Eighteen states already stopped providing pandemic-era emergency allocations as they ended their COVID-19 emergency declarations.
“SNAP emergency allotments were a temporary strategy authorized by Congress to help low-income individuals and families deal with the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic,” The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service announced.
The cuts will also impact folks in the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Inflation is near a 40-year high level, but as many as 40 million Americans will see the pandemic-era boost to SNAP end Wednesday when the benefit returns to normal levels.
“At the start of the COVID-19 crisis when millions of people lost their jobs, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in 2020 to temporarily boost SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, to help low-income families,” USA Today reported.
The Urban Institute estimates the benefit boost has kept more than 4 million people out of poverty.
The increase was always intended to expire when the pandemic did. But Congress acted, passing the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which ends the extra benefits immediately.
“That means recipient households will see their monthly grocery allocations reduced by at least $95, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning research and policy think tank. In daily terms, that equates to trimming the roughly $9 per-person average to about $6.10. And the change comes when food prices in January increased 10% over the same month last year,” NBC News reported.
NBC said that food banks are “bracing for a spike in demand.”
“More than 42.3 million people participated in SNAP as of October, the latest period for which federal data was available. Participation hadn’t previously surpassed that level since the summer of 2020. The program’s total cost for fiscal 2021 was $113.68 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. That included nine months of a 15% increase to the maximum benefit as part of the emergency allotments,” the article said.
NPR reported that nearly half of the households receiving food benefits receive Social Security, which in January got a cost-of-living adjustment that further diminished some people’s SNAP allocation — and in some cases, eligibility.
“When Social Security or any household income goes up, SNAP benefits may go down,” the announcement said. “However, the households will still experience a net gain, as the decrease in SNAP benefits is less than the increase in Social Security benefits.”
Per NPR, “Most of the 42 million SNAP beneficiaries are members of a working family, a person with a severe disability or a senior citizen on a fixed income, and about 1 in 5 are nondisabled adults without children, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told NPR in 2021.”
Meanwhile, close to 14 million Americans are likely to lose their health coverage on March 1, as well.
The Daily Mail reported that Medicaid rolls haven’t been monitored since the pandemic began and now states are asking everyone to re-enroll — a process that will determine if they still qualify for the medical coverage provided to low-income Americans. The article said that “Medicaid currently covers 94 million Americans — 20 million more than in 2020.”
It will mark the first time in several years that eligibility has been checked.