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COVID-era SNAP benefits expiring

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Americans reliant on SNAP benefits will soon see a cut in their monthly payments as the extra money added during the pandemic will expire starting Februrary.

The federal government says millions of low-income Americans need to prepare to cut back. In February for South Carolina and in March for 32 other states, millions will lose around $95 in additional monthly benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Seventeen states have already ended their pandemic-era SNAP benefits: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Stacy Dean, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition, said the extra funds were part of a pandemic-era program.

“This was always extra, temporary help.” Dean said.

The decrease comes as the national inflation rate remains high, especially on the cost of food.

Dean said the federal government already increased both snap and social security payments to combat rising consumer costs. SNAP benefits were increased by 27% last year to account for cost of living.

Social Security payments were increased by the largest amount in 40 years this January after annual cost of living adjustments.

While grateful for the adjustments, Vince Hall with Feeding America said they’re simply not enough. 

“We have transitioned from a pandemic crisis to a hunger crisis, and people who are working full time can’t afford rent, gasoline, electricity and food,” Hall said.

He expects already long lines at food banks to grow longer.

“(This) is going to create more problems in our mission of making sure that no one goes hungry,” Hall said.

Hall is urging lawmakers to make permanent changes to SNAP in the upcoming farm bill to help struggling families.

“Ultimately, Congress writes the rules,” he said.

USDA is encouraging families to prepare their budgets and apply for any other food assistance programs.

Because of increases to Social Security, which is categorized as unearned income, seniors could see a decrease to their SNAP payments but Dean says the chances of seniors losing SNAP benefits all together is rare.

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