Mar 2, 2023 - News

SNAP cuts could push San Antonians off a "hunger cliff"

Illustration of a box that contains some food and dotted outlines of food that is missing.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

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

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 recipient eligible for the program's maximum benefit.

  • That made a big difference for people who would typically only qualify for the minimum amount of food benefits, mainly elderly and disabled Americans.
  • Some of those households saw benefits go up by as much as $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.

By the numbers: 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, a hunger-relief organization comprised of food banks across the state.

  • Texas is expecting a roughly $340 million decrease in SNAP benefits from last month to this month, resulting in an average reduction of $212 per month for households.

Zoom in: From February to March, Bexar County is losing an estimated $27.5 million in SNAP benefits, Feeding Texas tells Axios.

What they're saying: The San Antonio Food Bank, which serves 100,000 people a week, is feeling the elevated need for help due to inflation.

  • Chief program officer Melanie McGuire says the end of extra money puts families in a bigger bind.
  • "What we're hearing is that families are now having to choose between purchasing healthy nutrition items for their kids or what are the cheapest items on the shelf so that they're really able to stretch those SNAP dollars," McGuire tells Axios.

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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