Special Report: Emergency SNAP Benefits End Nationwide
For the past three years, C.J. Bell and his wife have received emergency benefits through the benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“It helps us out greatly,” said Bell. “We’re retired and everything and just on a fixed income and it just helps out.”
Throughout the pandemic, SNAP recipients received an extra monthly payment from the federal government to help purchase food.
“It was great because–for example–my wife and I, we get $60.00 a month on the SNAP benefits,” said Bell. “On the emergency food they gave us $300.00.”
However, the emergency allotments are coming to an end.
“We’re going to have to scrape and scratch like we did before,” said Bell. “We’ll do it.” On March 1, the extra payments expire.
It’s a change that will impact nearly 57,000 of the estimated 269,000 people who live in Erie County, or 21 percent of Erie’s population.
“I think it’s a bad idea, because people are really hurting,” said SNAP recipient Charles Booth. “Things are not getting any better and things are just more expensive.”
Booth and Bell will now rely more heavily on the Second Harvest Food Bank’s Produce Express Program for assistance.
Bell and Booth are not alone. Nearly 16 percent of Crawford County, or 13,800 of the 83,300 residents also rely on SNAP benefits.
“I’m on social security and I just started that six months ago,” said Karen Luther of Meadville. “It’s a big change from losing half of your income and it helps a lot.”
According to the PA Department of Human Services, SNAP recipients can expect a reduction of at least $95.00 a month.
“We’re definitely concerned about the impact this is going to have,” said Department of Human Services press secretary Brandon Cwalina. “We’re really concerned about the impact this is going to have on the local food banks and charitable food organizations because they help with food insecurity as well.”
The Second Harvest Food Bank is also bracing for a significant increase in need.
“I don’t think people, it has hit them yet,” said Second Harvest Food Bank SNAP outreach coordinator Bonnie Rearick. “I think once they don’t see that money show on their card, and more of them will start panicking and that’s when they are going to realize they will need to find someplace else to get food.”
With ongoing inflation spiking the price of groceries, the reduction in benefits is hitting many families at an already difficult time.
“Luckily for me, I’m a single man and it’s not going to hurt that much,” said Booth. “People with families and stuff, it’s going to really hurt them a lot. It’s not right.”
Jamison Hixenbaugh is a multimedia journalist for Erie News Now and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
Co-published with Erie News Now.