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Cuts to Extra SNAP Benefits

Producer: Ying Yee Wong Reporter: J. Sidney Malone

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, announced the supplement of the funding to needy families ended on March 1st, 2023.

The program aims to provide food budgets to very low-income families and help them to get healthy food. Starting from March 2023, SNAP resumed getting the previous allotment based on household size and income in Illinois, and benefits could be decreased to between $95 and $25 per month. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, families with children make up over 67%, and older individuals or people with disabilities make up over 30% of SNAP households in Illinois.

With over a million food-insecure families relying on SNAP as a lifeline, the reduction of funding has raised awareness about how deficient-income families get basic groceries. According to Feeding America, one in twelve persons in Illinois struggles daily with food insecurity. Making a decision for healthy food is not always easy when a family suffers from hunger.

Dawn Longfellow is the director of the Wesley Food Pantry in Champaign. The pantry aims to provide a weekly supply of wholesome groceries to the community's needy to reduce food insecurity.

"The SNAP benefits program is really an essential part of the folks that are struggling with food insecurity to have that dignity of being able to go to a grocery store shop for their own food, make their own choices for themselves." Ms. Longfellow said.

She added the additional benefits helped the pantry to get more food to clients who needed them the most, allowing them to go to the grocery store and get their needs. The end of extra SNAP benefits is making the pantry and its clients need to deal with this challenging issue.

"It's going to likely fall on charitable organizations like ours and food pantries and food banks to accommodate that extra need, especially given the rising costs of food from the grocery store." Ms. Longfellow said.

She mentioned that the cutback on the benefits is a significant mistake by lawmakers as people are still struggling while food prices remain high due to inflation. "You have to pay rent. You have to pay utilities. You have to keep the water running. And a lot of times what's at the very end of that list of needs is food."

The Biden administration agreed to provide two months' notice prior to the termination of pandemic-related federal programs; nevertheless, as part of a budget package negotiated in December, Congress terminated emergency funding for SNAP in late February. Vulnerable people, such as the elderly and the disabled, may not have that kind of additional support. Some programs will remain, such as a commitment to retain a summer meal subsidy program for school children.

Ms. Longfellow said the pandemic is still going on in the Champaign community, so it is not suitable to take away the additional pandemic-era SNAP benefits at the current moment. "I would like to think that decision-makers would reevaluate and not continue to use this program as a way to cut costs," said Ms. Longfellow. "This is clearly a program that works and that is needed and that allows people to be dignified."

If you are facing food insecurity issues, You can use an online tool provided by Feeding America, a national network of food banks and food pantries, to locate one of the food banks in your area.

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