As many Americans grapple with a steep drop in food benefits, some states are trying to help.
- New Jersey is leading the way in helping low-income families handle the end of emergency benefits.
- Massachusetts and D.C. are looking to pass legislation to supplement SNAP payments.
- If you’re having trouble putting food on the table, find out what food pantries are operating nearby.
This month marked the end of emergency food benefits nationwide. The allotments had meant extra cash for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients each month. They were a temporary pandemic-related measure designed to help low-income families keep food on the table. And it worked.
Those additional payments made a big difference to millions of families’ bank account balances. For example, an Urban Institute study showed that emergency allotments kept 4.2 million people out of poverty in the fourth quarter of 2021. Unfortunately, ending those extra SNAP benefits will be painful, particularly as some households will see a sudden drop in income.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that some households will see their monthly benefits drop by as much as $250. It says the average person will receive about $90 less each month now that the emergency allotments have finished.
As a result, some states are looking for ways to continue to pay people higher food benefits. Here’s how five states are hoping to ease the pressure on people’s bank accounts.
1. New Jersey
New Jersey has already taken steps to boost SNAP benefits in the state by increasing the minimum benefit per household to $95. This is a lot more than the national minimum of $23, and is almost double the minimum payment of $50 the state set last year. The new minimum applied to SNAP benefits starting from March 1.
“By implementing a minimum monthly SNAP benefit of $95 for all beneficiaries, New Jersey is leading the nation in ensuring families have the support they need to keep putting food on the table,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
Maryland passed legislation last October to increase the minimum SNAP payment to $40 per month in households with anyone over the age of 62.
In January, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey filed a supplemental budget that included $130 million in funds to avoid a big immediate drop in SNAP payments after the end of the emergency aid. The idea is to create an “offramp” for families by providing three months’ worth of extra payments. If approved, households would receive an additional payment of 40% of the previous extra allotment benefit.
4. West Virginia
According to The Hill, West Virginia lawmakers have introduced at least five SNAP-related bills since the start of the year. These include a proposal to increase SNAP benefits for pregnant people and families with children by at least as much as the emergency allotments paid. It is early days for the bill as it was filed in the House in mid February.
5. District of Columbia
Lawmakers have been pushing the Give SNAP A Raise Amendment Act through the pipeline since 2021. It aims to supplement federal SNAP payments with a locally funded boost of 10% of the household’s maximum monthly benefit. It was passed by Congress a few weeks ago and now needs to be approved by the mayor and incorporated into the budget.
Stretch your SNAP benefits
News of budget proposals that may or may not pass in just a few states doesn’t do a lot to help families who are struggling to put food on the table today. However, the fact that some lawmakers are looking for ways to pay more in food benefits is better than nothing.
If you are finding it hard to afford food now that the emergency benefits have ended, call 211 to find out where your nearest food pantry is and what other help is available. Food pantries and soup kitchens may ask for ID and proof of address, but — unlike SNAP — there are no income restrictions for who they help.
It’s also worth seeing if you qualify for any additional food assistance. For example, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program gives extra food benefits to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and to infants and children under 5 years old. In a similar vein, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) offers help to seniors.
The end of the emergency payments comes at a difficult time as many households are still grappling both with sky-high living costs and the potential the U.S. might enter a recession. If your family is having trouble making ends meet following the drop in benefits, you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to look for outside assistance, whether it’s from local authorities or charitable organizations.
Alert: highest cash back card we’ve seen now has 0% intro APR until 2024
If you’re using the wrong credit or debit card, it could be costing you serious money. Our experts love this top pick, which features a 0% intro APR until 2024, an insane cash back rate of up to 5%, and all somehow for no annual fee.
In fact, this card is so good that our experts even use it personally. Click here to read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.