The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP, provides families struggling with food insecurity with monthly benefits. The program currently serves 41 million people (Civil Beat). In Virginia in 2022, the program served 764,600 residents (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). SNAP benefits are determined based on an annual review of the Thrifty Food Plan. They are adjusted every October based on an analysis of cost increases in July.
Beginning in March 2023, SNAP will return to the normal allotment amount, without the added emergency supplement. The emergency allotment was introduced in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were part of a bill called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and were intended to last the length of the public health emergency.
Emergency allotments adjusted the benefits provided by SNAP, allowing all SNAP households to receive an additional $95 in benefits or a benefit up to the maximum benefit for their household size. According to the Urban Institute, this kept 4.2 M people above poverty in the last quarter of 2021. They also found that the reduction of poverty rates was highest for Black and Latino communities. Through February 2023, 32 states have continued to utilize emergency allotments while 17 states ended EAs previously when their state emergency declaration ended.
Emergency allotments are ending due to the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (USDA). The Act was a bipartisan compromise in favor of creating a Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer program to help families with kids over the summer. The Union of Concerned Scientists is frustrated with this decision, explaining that the compromise was “in a rush to prevent a government shutdown” and “pitted summer child nutrition programs against the still the still-needed continuation of pandemic expansion to SNAP dollars.” They describe the emergency allotments as an “integral supplement” since they benefit all families receiving SNAP. Despite the recent increase in SNAP in October 2021, the benefits still can’t always meet the needs of the families it serves. The SNAP benefit amounts, especially without the extra emergency allotments, are also yet to account for recent price increases.
With the end of emergency allotments, households in the remaining 32 states, including Virginia, will receive at least $95 less a month. Some households will receive up to $250 less per month. The decrease will be partially based on household composition. Households with children are projected to receive $223 less per month, and households with adults 60 plus are expected to see a $168 decrease. The Center also anticipates that larger households will lose, likely $197 or more, due to the scaling of benefits based on family size (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). The most dramatic change will be for older adults in the minimum benefit level. Their benefits will fall from $281 per month to $23 (FRAC).
At Food for Others, we expect this change will heavily impact our clients. The Food Research and Action Center anticipates a “hunger cliff” as more families find they need to seek emergency assistance. This cliff will leave families who primarily relied on SNAP to find additional support, much of this support will likely come from food banks and food pantries, like Food for Others.