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Some States Cut Back On SNAP Benefits Amid Food Price Hikes

Some States Cut Back On SNAP Benefits Amid Food Price Hikes

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began offering increased food benefits to eligible Americans in April 2020 as a response to surging unemployment after the COVID-19 pandemic swept over the country. Now, the roughly 40 million who currently receive assistance to buy groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are seeing their benefits plunge even as the nation struggles with the biggest increase in food costs in decades.

The monthly payments from SNAP–formerly known as food stamps–are being lowered as COVID-19 disaster exceptions are ending and some governors are opting out of the ongoing federal program that made their states eligible for dramatic increases in SNAP benefits.

Feeding America, which represents 200 food banks, reports that demand for food has increased just as these organizations are seeing individual donations dwindle and food costs rise. The organization estimates the nation’s food banks will spend 40% more to buy food in the fiscal year ending June 2022 than in the previous year.

Depending on the politics of a state, individuals and families in need find themselves eligible for significantly different levels of help buying food. Nebraska took the most aggressive action anywhere in the country, ending the emergency benefits four months into the pandemic in July 2020 in a move Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts said was necessary to “show the rest of the country how to get back to normal.”

Nearly a dozen states with Republican leadership have taken similar action to Nebraska’s, with Iowa this month being the most recent place to slash the benefits. Benefits also will be cut in Wyoming and Kentucky in the next month. Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Tennessee have also scaled back the benefits. Many of those same states have also drastically reduced access to abortion or have completely outlawed it, thereby creating more financial burdens on families already facing severe reductions in assistance.

Wages have been increasing in the United States and the national unemployment rate in March dropped to 3.6%, but those gains have been offset by an 8.5% increase in inflation compared to a year ago. Food is among the items rising the fastest, leaving many families unable to buy enough groceries.

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