When a government program that increased monthly food assistance during the epidemic ends in March, emergency food distribution organizations in New Jersey are predicting a jump in demand and “catastrophic” effects.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, generally known as SNAP or sometimes referred to as “food stamps,” is one such program that some legislators seek to boost permanently using state funding. Before the government funding expires, they want to enact a measure.
Families were getting a minimum of $95 per month through SNAP thanks to the enhanced federal monies provided by COVID-19.
Emergency assistance payments have been available to people for three years. The Community Food Bank of New Jersey’s Adele LaTourette, senior director of policy and advocacy, described the announcement that “Now they’re going away” as “truly disastrous in so many ways.” It’s simply so incorrect.
Although state officials have been aware of the approaching deadline, LaTourette claimed that for many SNAP beneficiaries, the change will seem to have occurred overnight.
She claimed to have recently informed a small food pantry that was unaware that the additional benefit was coming to an end.
“When I informed them, their jaws really dropped. I believe it will be very difficult for people to comprehend,” she remarked.
After Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation last year to boost the SNAP monthly minimum, up from the federally-set minimum of $23 for this year, eligible families in New Jersey will still get at least $50 a month when the extra federal funds run out at the end of the following month.
With the knowledge that the emergency federal funds would soon stop, New Jersey was the first state to pass a law establishing its own minimum payment amount.
The demand for food pantries is expected to increase if the benefit is not reinstated, according to advocates for those who face food poverty, who note that $50 per month is only half of what families have received during the pandemic.
“Picture a senior or veteran living on a fixed income and having to deal with these expenses, these soaring prices at the food stores.
Their fixed income hasn’t changed, so they may go from two grocery bags to one now, according to Julie Kinner, vice president of operations for Table to Table, a nonprofit organization working in North Jersey to collect food from restaurants and grocery shops and distribute it to individuals in need.
According to the Department of Human Services, which manages the program, there are 770,000 people and nearly 400,000 families in New Jersey that get SNAP benefits.
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Sarah Adelman, the commissioner of the Department of Human Services, commented on the change in benefits in a press release, saying, “We understood the extra SNAP benefits were temporary, but we also recognize the impact this will have on New Jerseyans who have benefited from greater assistance over the last three years.”
She advised families to verify their benefits, to prepare before going grocery shopping, and to visit nj211.org for details on alternative options.
A letter containing the updated benefit amounts will be mailed to SNAP beneficiaries the following month. The Connect EBT smartphone app, 800-997-3333, njfamiliesfirst.com, and online are more options for residents to check their information.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, introduced a bill on Thursday that would have increased the SNAP monthly minimum to $95 and was approved by the body. The Senate’s entire chamber is now debating the bill.
However, according to Coughlin, he is certain that the law will have support from both parties and pass. “We have to be supportive of this when we look around and see that kind of need up and personal because it occurs in every community,” he said.
The county board of social services can be contacted to apply for SNAP online or over the phone.