Starting in March 2023, millions of Americans will find it difficult to afford enough food after the COVID-19 pandemic-era boost to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits comes to an end. This alteration was mandated by Congress through the budget bill that was approved in late December 2022.
Currently, there are roughly 41 million Americans who are currently enrolled in this program. SNAP benefits were historically low, which is why the Biden administration applied a SNAP boost through the “Thrifty Food Plan”, the standard the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses to set SNAP benefits. They adjusted the benefits based on the cost of a budget-conscious and nutritionally good diet. During the pandemic, SNAP benefits grew to nearly 42 million due to the coronavirus pandemic economic disruption.
According to Honolulu Civil Beat, the average number of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over a year declined for several years, but that changed after 2019. . The total number of Americans enrolled in the program decreased slightly in 2022.
According to a report by the Urban Institute, a research organization, the SNAP boost helped 4.2 million individuals stay out of poverty by the end of 2021. The report also stated that the program reduced poverty rates by 9.6% in states where the SNAP boost was still available, and child poverty was reduced by 14%. These SNAP boosts have been important in helping low-income families cope with this situation.
SNAP Boost Set to Expire
The alteration of the budget bill mandated by Congress to end the SNAP boost will result in millions of Americans afford enough food.
Many supporters of a stronger safety net say that SNAP benefits are too low to fulfill the needs of low-income people. They are warning of a coming hunger cliff. According to Yahoo, there are more than 30 states that still have the “emergency allotments” in place including the District of Columbia, but the SNAP boost will go away starting in March.
Looming Hunger Cliff
When the SNAP boost ends in March 2023, there will be a substantial increase in the number of individuals who do not have access to healthy food. The lowest-income families will experience a reduction of $95 per month in benefits. The elderly and disabled individuals who live alone and rely on fixed earnings will notice their benefits decrease from $281 to $23 a month.
According to a published article, the 8.7% cost of living increase in Social Security benefits implemented in January 2023 will cause most SNAP participants who receive Social Security benefits to experience a decline in SNAP benefits. This is because the increase in income reduces the amount of nutritional assistance they can receive, and some may even become ineligible for SNAP altogether. As a result, the average family of four on SNAP will see their benefits decline from the maximum of $939 to $718.