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  • Writer's pictureWPMT FOX 43

'Hunger cliff' looms for millions of Americans as extra SNAP benefits set to expire

The decrease will affect 41.5 million Americans, including 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


Published: 3:50 PM EST Feb 10, 2023 | Updated: 3:50 PM EST Feb 10, 2023


Photo credit: WPMT
📷 Credit: WPMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A “hunger cliff” is looming for millions of Americans on food stamps in March, when Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will shrink nationwide.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed an emergency increase in SNAP benefits. Most recipients received about $95 more per month for the last three years.


The added benefit will expire on March 1 for 32 states, including Pennsylvania. Seventeen other states have already seen their benefits expire since the start of the year.

The decrease will affect 41.5 million Americans, including 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“It’s kind of unprecedented to have this much of a drop off of benefits in one time,” said Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

Arthur said the expiration of benefits comes at a particularly difficult time for families.

“It’s hitting at a time where we’re at a very high level of need right now,” he said. “The amount of people that are relying on SNAP across the country and here in Pennsylvania is higher than ever, even a little bit higher than the peak of the pandemic.”

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank estimates $40.8 million in monthly SNAP benefits will be lost across the 27 counties it covers.

In those counties, the average SNAP recipient received $269 a month in 2022. That amount is estimated to fall 42% in 2023, to $158 a month.


“That’s countered by rising costs. We’re all living through an inflationary period, so those dollars don’t go as far anymore and now families will have less of those dollars to spend,” said Bob Weed, CEO of Project SHARE in Carlisle.

Base benefits did go up 12% to counter high food inflation, but total benefits will still come out to about $6.10 a day per person.

Project SHARE currently serves about 950 people living with food insecurity. They are preparing for an expected 20% increase in the coming months.

“Our focus has always been to be that stop gap between where income or no income and SNAP benefits leave off to help families make it through the end of the month,” Weed said.

York County Food Bank is also stocking up on food supplies ahead of March. Additionally, they are reaching out to the state government for help.

“Encouraging the governor to step in and see if there is something more that can be done to make sure that we’re meeting that extra demand,” said York County Food Bank CEO Jennifer Brillhart.

The state Department of Human Services (DHS) urges people to use all the resources for which they qualify.

No one should ever feel like they have to choose between putting food on the table and paying rent, paying for healthcare, things like that. SNAP is available to help you make ends meet,” said DHS press secretary Brandon Cwalina.

Resources:


Pa. COMPASS: an online tool for Pennsylvanians to apply for many health and human service programs and manage benefit information.


Pa. 211: Find resources to help you with your utilities bill, housing, food, employment and more, all across PA.


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