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One organization says families face a “looming hunger cliff.”
- The SNAP emergency allotments could come to an end in every state next year.
- If food prices continue to rise, SNAP benefits won’t go as far — and neither will our dollars.
- President Biden’s strategy to eradicate hunger may offer help to families in need, but it isn’t clear how much of it he can implement.
If the cost of living continues to rise, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits will likely increase again in October 2023. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the picture. In reality, many SNAP households will see a significant decrease in their benefits. Read on for two reasons why — and one potential saving grace. These three factors will have the biggest impact on SNAP benefits in 2023.
1. End of emergency allotments
During the COVID-19 pandemic, states across the country boosted SNAP benefits by paying extra emergency allotments. While some states have already stopped making these extra payments, many continue to do so. It’s hard to overstate the benefit of this additional cash. Although 1 in 10 Americans still experienced food insecurity in 2021, hunger actually fell compared with the year before.
The total monthly SNAP payment usually gets calculated by taking the maximum benefit for that household and then making certain deductions. Under the emergency provisions, all SNAP recipients get the maximum benefit for their household size. Households who already receive the maximum still get an extra $95. Plus, states can waive a restriction that only lets people claim for three months in every three years.
However, these emergency provisions are only an option for individual states while the public health emergency is in place. And it won’t last forever. Right now, the health emergency is due to expire on Jan. 11, 2023. It has been renewed every 90 days since it was announced in Jan. 2020, but we don’t yet know if authorities will introduce another 90 day extension.
Even if it gets extended beyond January, the public emergency will almost certainly end at some point next year. When it does, millions could lose their health insurance as well as extra food benefit payments. As a release from the Food Research and Action Center put it, “Families face a looming hunger cliff.”
2. SNAP benefit amounts aren’t due to change again until Oct. 2023
Almost every American household has been impacted by spiraling living costs this year and lower income families have been hardest hit. At the start of each fiscal year (the start of October), SNAP benefits are adjusted to match changes in living costs. For example, SNAP benefits increased by 12.5% in October. The maximum benefit for a family of four is now $939. The trouble is the system simply isn’t set up for double-digit price increases across a single year. Annual adjustments only go so far in times of high inflation.
As time passes, our dollars — whether SNAP benefits or cash in the bank — don’t buy as much. If inflation continues to rise at its current rate, food prices could rise another 10% or more by Sept. 2023. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen. But unless the system changes or inflation slows, with every passing month, people will get less food for the same amount of benefits.
3. President Biden wants to eradicate hunger
On the plus side, President Biden recently announced a “National Strategy for Hunger, Nutrition, and Health” and SNAP benefits feature in several parts of the plan. Biden wants to expand SNAP eligibility and also add more incentives for healthy eating. This might involve expanding the SNAP Double Up Food Bucks scheme that gives people twice the amount of fruit and vegetables for their money.
However, it isn’t clear how much of the hunger eradication strategy the government will be able to push through as the idea doesn’t have much bipartisan support. Whatever happens at a political level, the plan already includes $8 billion in commitments from businesses and other organizations, which will help in some way to reduce food insecurity.
The other benefit of Biden’s commitment to eradicate hunger is that the issue is on the government’s radar. It may mean authorities find other ways to ease the pain if and when the emergency SNAP provisions end. It is extremely unlikely SNAP benefits will increase before October, but there are other ways to help low-income families.
Reducing food costs
Right now, many households will receive less SNAP food benefits in 2023. In part because their money won’t go as far, and in part because some will lose the extra emergency food payments. For low-income households who are already grappling with increased housing and utility costs, this will be a big blow.
If you’re a SNAP recipient, you’re probably already an expert in finding bargains and stretching your food dollars. Every little bit helps, so try to find cash back apps that work with your EBT payment card. If you have room in the cupboard to store bulk purchases, and room in the freezer to store batch cooking and leftovers, both are good ways to cut costs.
SNAP is not the only food assistance program out there. If you can’t put food on the table, see if you qualify for any additional help — for example, there’s help for school lunches, help for seniors, and help for women who are pregnant or have small children. In an emergency, you can also look for a local food pantry or soup kitchen. Call United Way on 211 to find out what help is available.
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