WASHINGTON — Tens of millions of low-income families are set to lose additional food stamp benefits on Wednesday after the expiration of a pandemic-era policy that had increased the amount they received, leaving food banks bracing for a surge in demand and some advocates predicting a rise in hunger nationwide.
For nearly three years of the pandemic, emergency legislation enacted by Congress sought to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus, allowing all participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to receive the maximum monthly benefit, regardless of income. The extra cash, along with other economic assistance programs, helped keep food insecurity at bay and cut poverty rates to a record low.
But that temporary increase lapses for more than 30 million people across 35 states and territories on Wednesday, effectively cutting benefits for the vast majority of recipients as inflation remains persistently high and many other coronavirus-era programs end.
“This is a cost shift from the federal government,” said Ellen Vollinger, the SNAP director at the nonprofit Food Research & Action Center. “It just shifts the burden of hunger onto states and counties, to the charitable sector, but of course, most harshly, it shifts the burden to that household to try to make do with even less.”