US ending extra help for groceries that started during COVID pandemic
Nearly 30 million Americans who got extra government help with grocery bills during the pandemic will soon see that aid shrink — and there’s a big push to make sure they’re not surprised.
Officials in 32 states and other jurisdictions have been using texts, voicemails, snail mail, flyers and social media posts — all in multiple languages — to let recipients know that their extra food stamps end after February’s payments.
“One of the scenarios you don’t want to see is the first time they’re aware of it is in the checkout line at the grocery store,” said Ellen Vollinger, an official with the Food Research & Action Center, a nonprofit organization.
For the average recipient, the change will mean
about $90 less per month, though for many, it could be much more, an analysis shows. Benefits will return to usual levels, which are based largely on a household’s income, size and certain expenses, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
A public notice in Michigan urged the 1.3 million recipients in that state to “seek needed resources” to make up for the cuts.
“We want to make sure our clients are prepared for this change, as we realize inflation is affecting all of us,” said Lewis Roubal with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Jacqueline Benitez, 21, who works as a preschool teacher in Bellflower, California, expects a significant cut, perhaps half, of the $250 in food benefits she has received since 2020 through CalFresh, the state’s SNAP program.
“It’s such a lifesaver,” said Benitez, who was previously homeless, but now lives in a subsidized one-bedroom apartment. “Food is such a huge expense. It’s a little nerve-wracking to think about not having that.”
Benitez said she’s already thinking twice about paying $5 for fresh fruit.
“What happens if it goes bad?” she said.