End of extra SNAP benefits could be the most detrimental to Black families, study shows

Rosie Nguyen Image
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Study shows Black families largely impacted by end of SNAP benefits
The end of the emergency allotments comes during a time when struggling families are dealing with low wages, inflation, and rising food costs.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The program that temporarily increased federal SNAP benefits for low-income families nearly three years ago came to an end Wednesday, leaving millions of people across the country with less money to buy food. Researchers who studied child poverty found that the program had the biggest impact on Black families.

The "emergency allotments" were a temporary measure enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that provided SNAP recipients in participating states with the maximum monthly amount eligible for their family size.

READ MORE: Pandemic-era food stamps end March 1 for nearly 30M Americans: 'We're really going to struggle'

BakerRipley's monthly food fair at the East Aldine campus fell on the same day the extra SNAP benefits expired. Through a partnership with the Houston Food Bank, they helped nearly 250 people in need and ran out of food earlier than expected.

"This is to address the urgent needs in the community. We're seeing community members that we don't normally see that are coming to our food fairs. We have community members who face some really drastic basic needs. They're worried about what food is going to go on their table the next day, getting their bills paid, and having a roof over their head," said Rocio Witte, community developer for BakerRipley.

The end of the emergency allotments comes during a time when struggling families are dealing with low wages, inflation, and rising food costs. SNAP recipients who spoke to ABC13 asked not to have their names or faces shown due to their financial situation. But they shared how losing this extra money will force them into making very difficult decisions.

"You either pay your bills, or you eat. You don't pay for your medications. You don't see doctors," said one woman with toddlers in her family. "We have to have food stamps to live. There's no question about it. There are only so many food banks that are out there and willing to help. We can't constantly depend on the charity of others. SNAP is there for a reason."

Congress traded the extra SNAP funds for a new permanent program to replace school meals during the summer for low-income families. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average household will lose about $95 per month in money for groceries. Depending on family size and income, some families can lose hundreds of dollars each month.

Research by the Urban Institute shows the emergency allotments kept nearly 4.2 million people out of poverty, which is 9.6% in states with the additional SNAP benefits in the fourth quarter of 2021. Child poverty was reduced overall by 14.%, but the greatest decrease was among Black children at 18.4%.

"We know that Black and brown communities are more impacted by food insecurity than others. The reduction in child poverty that we saw with the additional SNAP benefit actually impacted Black and brown families the most," said Dr. Rachel Kimbro, dean of social sciences at Rice University. "My concern with ending the COVID-era addition to the SNAP benefit - we're going to see a lot more families fall back into poverty and a lot more children who will go hungry."

READ MORE: End of expanded SNAP benefits may push Black, Latino communities into poverty: Study

The extra money was always meant to be temporary. However, experts said we have to keep in mind that food prices have risen by 10.1% from just a year ago. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that butter increased by 31%. Breakfast cereals and bread went up by 15%.

"When you go to the store, you've got to look for specials and bargains because you can't afford to buy food like you used to," said an elderly woman who lives with her husband, both of whom are in their 70s. "We need their (the government's) help. I wish they could see some of these situations people have to go through."

Local nonprofits like BakerRipley expect to see a surge in clients in the upcoming months as the gap widens for food insecurity and demand for food banks increase.

"Don't be afraid to ask for help. Take advantage of the resources that are out in the community. We do get some community members who say, 'No. There's somebody who's in bigger need than I am.' But everyone goes through difficult situations in their life," Witte said.

SNAP recipients can find out how much their new monthly benefit will be by visiting the Your Texas Benefits website, logging into the Your Texas Benefits mobile app, or calling 211 and selecting option 2.

For information about social services such as food pantries, housing, child care, rent assistance, and more, call 211 and select option 1. Information is also available online at the 211 Texas website and through the 211 chat portal.

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