Mar 6, 2023 - News

SNAP cuts could push Austinites off 'hunger cliff'

Illustration of a slice of bread with a "no" sign cut out of the middle

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of the last remaining major pandemic relief programs — the expansion of SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps — ended last week, pushing about 32 million Americans off a "hunger cliff," advocates say.

Why it matters: Since 2020, a massive boost in funding toward programs for low-income Americans meaningfully lowered poverty rates for adults and children. But that era is mostly ending, Axios' Emily Peck reports.

Context: Enacted with a pandemic relief bill in 2020, the enhanced SNAP benefits made every SNAP recipient eligible for the program's maximum benefit.

  • That made a big difference to those who would typically qualify for the minimum amount of food benefits, mainly elderly and disabled Americans.
  • Some of those households saw benefits go up by $250 or even $500 per month.

State of play: The SNAP emergency allotments kept 4.2 million Americans out of poverty, reducing poverty rates for children by 14% in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to a report published last year.

Threat level: The end of the extra allotments will result in a "significant loss" of food assistance for 3.6 million Texans enrolled in SNAP, per Feeding Texas.

  • Texas is expecting a roughly $340 million decrease in SNAP benefits between last month and this month. Every household receiving SNAP benefits will see a minimum reduction of $95 per month. That reduction will be even steeper for many families.

Zoom in: From February to March, Travis County residents are losing an estimated $8 million in SNAP benefits, Feeding Texas tells Axios.

  • People in the 21 counties served by the Central Texas Food Bank are expected to lose more than $25.5 million from February to March, per Feeding Texas.

What's next: Federal grants to help with housing and child care expenses are also expected to run out this year, and a provision to simplify Medicaid enrollment is ending.

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