(NEXSTAR, WTNH) – Residents of 32 states, including Connecticut, who rely on federal assistance to buy food are about to see their benefits shrink at the end of February.
An emergency increase to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called the Food Stamp Program) was approved at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For most recipients, that increase amounted to an extra $95 monthly over the past three years.
Starting March 1, those emergency COVID-era benefits will end across all states.
Seventeen states already saw those benefits expire as of January 2023. One state, South Carolina, ended the emergency allotment at the start of February.
In the remaining 32 states, plus Washington, D.C., Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the extra money will dry up starting with the March 2023 benefit month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.
Those 32 states are Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
“We know that these increased benefits have been important to so many Oklahomans over the last three years and that this change will impact some SNAP users harder than others, particularly our senior and disabled neighbors,” said Chris Bernard, President/CEO of Hunger Free Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is one of the states that will see the extra benefits dry up next month as food prices remain high nationwide. Groceries were about 10% more expensive at the start of January than they were one year prior, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Undoubtedly, this will create an increased demand on our charitable organizations across the state and an increased need for Oklahomans to support their local food pantries and food banks,” said Bernard.
SNAP recipients who also get Social Security may see their SNAP benefits shrink even more than $95. That’s because as the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment for 2023 kicks in, it increases those households’ incomes and may reduce the amount of SNAP help for which they are eligible.
However, FNS says the changes should still be an overall net gain. Even as SNAP benefits are adjusted downward, the 8.7% boost in Social Security should make up for it.
In Connecticut, the average recipient will see about $95 less a month in groceries.
“What about when that happens, that will have people going to the food pantries, which they are struggling too with that,” said Grace Jackson, who has family members who use benefits.
Connecticut Foodshare is gearing up to help fill the gaps. The organization said that there are 400,000 people in the state who are considered to be food insecure.
“It’s not up to us, and we’re now in a position where the government has made a decision, and we have to just take that decision, and we have to do what we can to help the people of Connecticut,” said Jason Jakubowski, the CEO of Connecticut Foodshare.
In 2021, more than 41 million Americans used SNAP benefits to buy food. Now, it’s set to be a difficult adjustment for families who were counting on those extra dollars.
“Just like every other time these emergency pandemic-era benefits expire, that we will definitely see an impact in need,” Jakubowski said. “We are fully prepared for that.”