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3 Things to Know About the End of Emergency SNAP Benefits

Many recipients will receive less money for food starting in March. Here’s how to find help

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The end of a pandemic-era expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits could leave millions of older Americans struggling to eat affordably at a time when inflation has driven grocery prices sharply higher.

SNAP, previously known as food stamps, is the federal government’s largest program for fighting hunger and food insecurity, serving roughly 41 million people nationwide in 2022. In March 2020, Congress passed a coronavirus response law that temporarily increased the amount of financial assistance people in the program received. As of March 1, 2023, the program will no longer issue those additional benefits, called Emergency Allotments (EA). That means that monthly SNAP benefits will return to levels based on their income and household size.

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The average recipient will receive $90 less per month than they received while the EAs were issued, and some households could see benefits reduced by $250 or more per month, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Many of the households facing these reductions include at least one older adult. According to research from AARP’s Public Policy Institute, among households that participated in SNAP benefits, 8.7 million included at least one person age 50 or older.

“The decrease in benefits will combine with the meteoric rise in food prices and will further exacerbate the challenges millions are facing to consistently access the food they need for a healthy, active life — the definition of food security,” says Nicole Heckman, AARP Foundation vice president for Benefits Access Programs. Food prices have increased 10.1 percent over the past year, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for January from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here are three things to know about the changes to SNAP benefits.

Some states already ended increased SNAP benefits.

Eighteen states opted to end EA benefits before the March 2023 deadline, so SNAP recipients in those states will not see additional changes to their benefits as the program ends nationally. The states that previously ended EA benefits are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Once the federal boost to SNAP benefits ends, some states may opt to use their own funds to provide residents with benefits that are higher than the federal minimum. For example, starting in March 2023, SNAP participants in New Jersey will receive a minimum of $95 a month in food assistance benefits, an increase of $72 per month over the federal minimum of $23 month. Several other states are considering similar legislation.

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Social Security recipients might get lower SNAP benefits than before the pandemic.

In January, Social Security recipients saw the largest cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase in 40 years. That 8.7 percent COLA increase helps participants better manage rising prices due to inflation. But because SNAP benefits are based on income, an increase in Social Security benefits could cause a drop in SNAP benefits for participants in both programs. The federal Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) estimates that for every $3 in additional Social Security income, SNAP households will lose $1 in SNAP benefits.

“SNAP participants should make sure all of their income and expenses are up to date with the state agency that manages their program,” Heckman says. “In particular, adults over 60 and individuals with a disability can claim their recurring medical expenses on their SNAP application. Many are not doing so today, and it can make a meaningful difference on the amount of SNAP benefits received.  So participants should make sure to claim their shelter costs and recurring out-of-pocket medical expenses to qualify for the maximum benefit that they are eligible for."

There are additional programs and services that can help with hunger.

Even with SNAP benefits, many people still struggle to eat affordably. Food pantries and other charitable services can offer some local assistance, but there are several other FNS programs that may be able to help. You can check the full list of FNS programs here. Two such programs targeted at older adults are:

  • Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. This service gives low-income people age 60 and older coupons they can use to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and other food at farmers markets and roadside stands in their communities.
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program. This service provides low-income adults age 60 and over with a monthly package of nutritious USDA foods.
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program. This service provides food pantries and group dining options such as soup kitchens for lower-income adults. You do not need to prove low-income status to be eligible for the group dining options.
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AARP Foundation can help you find local services to aid you in applying for SNAP benefits and other programs. You can learn more about this assistance by clicking this link. “Older adults [experiencing food insecurity], whether they participate in SNAP or not, can reach out to their local Area Agency on Aging to connect with resources in their community,” Heckman says.

If you have additional questions about how the end of Emergency Allotments will affect your benefits, please contact your local SNAP office. You may also call the USDA’s Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

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