Food Stamps: Emergency SNAP Benefits End in May for These States
With the goal of “getting back to normal,” many states have already ended their public health emergencies and, as a result, the extra Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments that their residents got during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next week, at the end of May, enhanced SNAP benefits will end in 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to the USDA website, this means that 17 states and Guam have accepted extensions through June. Through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the U.S. government gave states permission in March 2020 to give SNAP households who were already getting emergency food benefits more money.
According to Reuters, the federal public health emergency (PHE) was first declared when the coronavirus pandemic began in January 2020. Since then, it has been renewed every three months. It was supposed to end on April 16, but it was made good until July 15.
In the same Reuters article, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that it gives states 60 days' notice before the PHE ends. For the end date of July 15, the 60-day notice date of May 17 has already passed, so you can expect an official extension soon.
Since the start of the pandemic, states have been giving SNAP households extra money in case of emergencies. As the economy got over the initial shock of the pandemic, some states have asked why all households should get the maximum SNAP benefit.
Because of this, these states chose to announce the end of their public health emergencies and the end of their increased SNAP payments before other states did. On the other hand, SNAP benefits are going down for more than 40 million Americans who get help buying groceries.
This is happening at the same time that food prices are going up the most they have in decades. A number of states will keep giving their residents the extra money until the federal PHE program ends.
The USDA website is good for general information and links, but to find out if you are eligible for SNAP and if your state is continuing enriched SNAP payments through June, check the website of your state's SNAP agency.
Each state has different registration and eligibility requirements. At the end of May, 17 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands will stop offering enhanced SNAP benefits.
- New York
- New Mexico
- Virgin Islands
End of the School Year Means End of Georgia Children's Expanded Food Subsidies.
Families in Georgia will no longer get extra money for groceries to help keep kids from getting hungry in the summer. The Pandemic-EBT benefits that made the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which used to be called food stamps, better are no longer available to households in Georgia.
Over the last two years, families got food worth hundreds of millions of dollars because the program was made bigger. The loss is a worry for Georgia's food banks, which are still trying to meet more people's needs because of the pandemic. Families who are going hungry often turn to food banks as their last resort.
Georgia's program that increased federal benefits for about 770,000 people are ending because the state didn't fill out an application that would have covered payments during the summer and the next school year.
Early in May, the Georgia Department of Human Services said that SNAP recipients would start getting their normal monthly allowances on June 1. During the 2019-2020 school year, the state gave more benefits to more than 1.1 million children who qualified for free or low-cost school lunches. This cost the state more than $290 million.
It runs out at the start of summer break, when the USDA says grocery prices are 10.8 per cent higher than last year and the price of gas has gone up a lot in recent weeks, making it harder for many families to pay their bills.
“It's pretty well known that food insecurity and hardship are worse in the summer for low-income families with children who get free or reduced-price meals during the school year,” said Poonam Gupta, a research analyst at the nonprofit think tank Urban Institute, which put out a report on how the program works.
Families could use debit cards to buy food through a program that started in 2020. At that time, many schools didn't teach in classrooms and instead used a mix of online and in-person learning. In the past two years, when there were fewer options for school meals, volunteers stepped up to fill the gap.
The end of the program could mean that families lose $120 million in SNAP benefits, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
Even though many Georgians are back to their normal lives from before the pandemic, many Black families and low-income households are still hurting from the economic downturns. Ife Finch Floyd, a senior economic justice policy analyst at GBPI, wrote that the food assistance program is also used more in rural areas, such as parts of Georgia with some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country.
“Georgia is coming out of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, but the recovery isn't the same for everyone, and the inequalities that were there before the pandemic are still there,” Finch wrote in an analysis on May 18.
“Policymakers should use temporary stimulus dollars as a starting point for advancing racial equity and should think about how to use state and federal resources for a vision of Georgia where Black, Brown, and white people, as well as long-time rural residents, have a foundation for economic opportunity.”
Katie Byrd, a spokeswoman for Kemp, told Georgians who don't have enough food to eat that they should look for alternatives to SNAP, such as a state summer meals program for students and local food banks.
Even though the pandemic SNAP benefits have ended, Kemp has just announced that several food banks will get federal grants to help fight hunger. That includes $29.5 million for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and $8.3 million for America's Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia and Georgia Mountain Food Bank.
In addition, the governor has set up a state program to help food banks with fresh produce shortages. Byrd said in a statement that Georgia was the first state to reopen its economy in a safe and proper way. “We saved both lives and ways of making a living, and now our state is getting better faster than any other state.”
Our unemployment rate is at an all-time low, and there are more jobs in Georgia than ever before. Byrd said, “Starting in June, each SNAP household in Georgia will get benefits based on the usual factors, like household size, income, and deductions, that are used to decide eligibility.”
When the extra benefits program was first set up in 2020 as part of the American Rescue Act, everyone in the state took part. But there have been some bureaucratic hiccups along the way, which is why states like Georgia gave out their funding last year even though they didn't get federal approval at first.
Gupta said, “One of the biggest problems with P-EBT is that guidance from the USDA and Food and Nutrition Service comes out so late that states don't really have enough time to put together a plan and get benefits out.”
Putting together a plan for the pandemic on top of other help programs has become hard over the past year, leaving many state SNAP administrators with too much to do.
In the meantime, as students returned to mostly in-school classrooms, school officials had to collect information, such as whether a student missed school because of quarantine or other reasons. According to Gupta, there was no central database to keep track of the new information.
Still, 30 states, including Georgia's neighbors, have had their most recent applications approved.
According to the Georgia Food Bank Association, in 2021, food banks in Georgia gave out 205 million pounds of fruits, vegetables, and other groceries. This was 30 percent more than before the pandemic when the need was at its highest.
Callie Roan, a spokeswoman for Georgia Food Banks, said that the cut in benefits comes at a hard time for both people in need in Georgia and food banks.
“As a network, we're worried, but we'll stay on guard as we head into the busy summer months when many kids stop getting meals at school and instead eat more often from their families' pantries,” she said. “Despite the problems, our food banks will continue to work together across the state with the help of the community and our federal and state partners to meet as many needs as possible.”