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Temporary pandemic boost to SNAP will end in Ohio after February

A man places food in a shopping cart
Lance Cheung
USDA/Creative Commons
Roy and Santana Townsend of San Felipe Pueblo, NM have checked in with the Five Sandoval Indian Pueblos, Inc.

A temporary boost to SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, will end after February. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the changes recently, Ohio was one of several states participating in SNAP emergency allotments.

Throughout the pandemic, over 1.5 million people in Ohio enrolled in SNAP have, on average, been receiving $90 more per person, per month.

That will end next month after the federal government approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act, an omnibus budget package. The bill didn’t include money for SNAP emergency allotments.

For nearly three years, Ohio SNAP households have been receiving these benefits in two separate issuances — one toward the beginning of the month and one toward the end of the month.

The changes in funding means people enrolled in the program will only see their first monthly issuance on their EBT card beginning in March.

In a statement, Matt Damschroder, the director of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said the state department is working with local agencies to support them with what it expects will be a high call volume.

“We will be communicating to recipients, county agencies, and our partners such as food banks, that normal SNAP payment will resume in March,” Damschroder said.

Joree Novotny, the chief of staff at the Ohio Association of Food Banks, said with the state of inflation, the association expects its number of clients to increase, especially people on limited incomes.

“Just for our most recent quarter that we have data for, we served just shy of three million people in three months. And that’s while SNAP participants in Ohio have been getting $120 million more per month in benefits. So that’s what we’re reckoning with,” Novotny said.

She added although the organization is thankful forrecent state funding approved for food banks help, policymakers should still consider strengthening its food assistance program.

“This is challenging because we're fully aware that these benefits were never intended by Congress to be permanent,” Novotny said. “But there are opportunities to make benefit amounts significant permanently through a vehicle like a Farm Bill.”

The Farm Bill — a massive bill package passed by Congress every five years is up for renewal this year. It shapes the country's entire food system. It funds agricultural programs and commodities, provides support for sustainable farming research and also funds crop insurance.

Three-quarters of it funds food nutrition programs that serve food banks, low-income families and seniors.

Novotny said she and countless other anti-hunger advocacy groups want to see real changes like the ones that helped low-income families stay afloat through the pandemic.

“One thing that we could do is raise that minimum benefit. That would be a really practical way to drive some more equity to those households, that's one way that we could come together in a bipartisan way,” Novotny said.

The omnibus bill does increase social security benefits. It also creates funding for a permanent summer EBT food program for some school kids who are out of school in the summer and might be eligible for food assistance in the summer.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.
Copyright 2023 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

Alejandro Figueroa