A pandemic relief program paying out more money to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly referred to as food stamps, is ending after February.
Ending the program will leave less money for lower-income recipients who have relied on the added relief for nearly three years, raising concerns locally.
Officials said the move may have a negative impact on Dayton-area retail spending and spur recipients to lean more heavily on foodbanks at a time when 6.5% inflation is “impacting everybody.”
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Dayton’s The Foodbank Inc., which distributes about 15 million pounds of food a year in three counties, has been gearing up for the change and “we’re prepared,” said Lee Truesdale, its chief development officer.
SNAP has 1.43 million Ohio recipients, including more than 150,000 in Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Warren counties combined, according to the state.
Starting March 1, the average amount that Greene County residents receive in benefits will be cut by more than one-third, said Beth Rubin, the Job and Family Services director there.
“We’re concerned that even though recipients have known all along that this was temporary help, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still going to be probably shocking when the additional help stops,” Rubin said.
‘Critical safety net’
In December, the average SNAP allotment per recipient in Greene County was $368 with the emergency supplement average of $189, she said.
The average emergency allotment in November was $170 in Montgomery County, where $6.86 million was issued to recipients, a human services spokeswoman said in an email.
The original end date for the emergency funds was last year, according to Montgomery County Job and Family Services Director Michelle Niedermier.
“SNAP is one of the most important and effective anti-hunger programs and is a critical safety net for children, working families, seniors and more,” Niedermier said in an issued statement. “We’ve been very fortunate that the federal government has continued to reauthorize emergency allotments.”
SNAP supplements food budgets of needy families to buy “healthy food and move toward self-sufficiency,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The maximum monthly gross income for a family of four to be eligible for SNAP is $3,007, said Bill Teets of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The total amount per month statewide for the emergency SNAP allotments is $129.6 million, he said.
Preparing for end
More than $3.5 million in SNAP funds were doled out to Greene County recipients in December with a large share of the money going to Xenia and Fairborn residents, Rubin said.
While the emergency allotments were provisional, recipients may have grown to rely on them during the nearly three years they have been distributed, Rubin said.
“I think folks have most likely adjusted their monthly spending to account for the temporary help — especially because it’s gone on for so long,” she said.
The state has a variety of methods to notify SNAP households that the emergency funds will be ending, Rubin said. Mail, phone and text messages are all being used, as well as messages on the Ohio Benefits self-service portal and the Ohio JFS website, she said.
Rubin suspects the end of emergency allotments will lead to a greater reliance on foodbanks, something Truesdale said The Foodbank, Inc. is anticipating.
The operation, working with 112 partner agencies, last month served 17,387 households in Greene, Montgomery and Preble counties, she said.
“We try to keep a wide variety of food in stock,” Truesdale said. “We’re fortunate that we’re coming off the holiday giving season. So, we have a larger variety of shelf-stable items.”
“We know we will probably see an uptick in customers,” she added. “It’s really hard to conceptualize what the numbers would be. But we are here. We are available. We do have the food available to meet that need.”
Emergency COVID-19 allotments for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients that began in March 2020 will end Feb. 28. The move will impact 1.43 million Ohioans. Here is a breakdown of recipients by area counties:
Recipients per county
SOURCE: The Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, Greene and Montgomery counties.
TOP ZIP CODES
The following — in order — are the 10 ZIP codes with the most SNAP recipients in Greene and Montgomery counties:
•Greene: 45385, 45324, 45335, 45431, 45305, 45387, 45370, 45430, 45432 and 45314.
•Montgomery: 45417, 45406, 45405, 45424, 45403, 45414, 45410, 45402, 45426 and 45404.
SOURCES: Greene and Montgomery counties’ departments of job and family services.
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