Feb 23, 2023 - News

SNAP benefit reduction could hurt 12% of Ohio's population

Illustration of a bag of groceries and money.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Extra food assistance benefits put into place during the pandemic are ending nationwide at the end of the month.

Why it matters: The change in federal law means a smaller monthly food budget for the more than 1.46 million low-income Ohioans receiving aid — more than 12% of our state's population.

  • That includes about 165,000 people in Franklin County.

Catch up quick: Since March 2020, pandemic emergency allotments have allowed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households to receive at least an extra $95 a month.

  • Starting in March, they'll go back to receiving one pre-pandemic payment determined by income and household size.

Zoom in: The number of Ohioans receiving SNAP benefits peaked throughout 2020 and declined as people returned to work and COVID-19's impact lessened.

  • But 96,000 more Ohioans received benefits in November 2022 than four years ago, per the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' latest data.
  • The average monthly issuance per person has more than doubled during that time, from $127 to $273.
Data: Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services; Chart: Axios Visuals

Threat level: The switch could strain already-strapped local food banks amid inflation.

By the numbers: Ohioans visited food banks 3.1 million times from October to December 2022 — the most of any quarter in 25 years of data, Ohio Association of Foodbanks spokesperson Joree Novotny tells Axios.

  • Ending the boost "will only worsen an already unprecedented level of need," she says.
  • The group requested an additional $100 million in the next state biennium budget to keep up with demand, but was flat-funded at their regular $49 million.

What's next: Columbus food education, access and advocacy nonprofit Local Matters is offering free Veggie Van delivery services through March and will host additional neighborhood markets this year, executive director Michelle Moskowitz Brown tells Axios.

What we're watching: Deepening congressional division over federal funding for nutrition programs means households can't count on relief in this year's farm bill, the legislation that authorizes SNAP, Axios' Ayurella Horn-Muller writes.

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