By VICTOR SKINNER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Emergency allotments for food benefits were more than $2 billion nationwide from March 2020 to this past December.
Congressional passage and Democratic President Joe Biden’s signing of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill the last week of December signaled the end to those extra benefits. Many states, in the two weeks since, have been steadily announcing changes to their respective Food and Nutrition Services programs. February will be the last of the additional help.
In North Carolina, which made the announcement this week, the benefit per person per day drops from $8.12 to $5.45 beginning in March. It’s about $95 per month.
“Families needed these additional benefits to get healthy and nutritious food throughout the pandemic,” said Susan Gale Perry, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services chief deputy secretary for Opportunity and Well-Being. “While FNS emergency payments are ending, the need is not. We will continue to prioritize food security for all North Carolinians.”
Louisiana was another making the announcement this week.
“Emergency allotments were always going to be temporary,” said Havana Howard, the assistant secretary of Family Support. “We requested approval to issue the supplements each month and messaged our SNAP households when the USDA approved them.
“Still, we know this news will be unsettling to recipients who have counted on the additional food assistance for the past three years, especially as they struggled with the health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.”
Thirty-three states were acknowledged to have emergency allotment extensions into at least January 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s information page.
The change comes as federal cost of living increases for Social Security retirement, survivors and disability insurance, supplemental security income, and some Veterans Administration payments are forcing benefit reductions in federal food programs.
The 8.7% cost of living adjustment is calculated by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, based on the Consumer Price Index. The 2023 increase is the largest since an 11.2% jump in 1981. That four-decade gap mirrors the timespan since inflation was this bad in America.
The situation means the increases that took effect this month are pushing many over the eligibility limit for SNAP and other programs, while others will receive less food assistance.
“We encourage the public to support food banks, nonprofits such as the United Way, faith-based partners and others who will no doubt be stepping up to fill the gap created by the loss of the additional assistance,” Louisiana’s Howard said. “We will be working with these partners over the next several weeks to support them in this effort.”