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Ohio prepares for decrease in SNAP benefits if federal COVID emergency order is not renewed

Food assistance
Posted at 6:13 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 20:35:18-04

CLEVELAND — A federal COVID-19 emergency declaration issued at the start of the pandemic that has been renewed multiple times in the past two years is set to expire in mid-July if not renewed again in the coming days. When the order does expire, hundreds of thousands of Ohioans will see a decrease in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds each month.

Ohio saw about $120 million a month in increased food assistance dollars as part of the emergency funding that boosted SNAP benefit dollars for around 700,000 Ohioans in need. The emergency order was most recently renewed for 90 days in April. But with President Joe Biden and his administration stating that it will provide 60 days notice of intention to end the declaration or let it expire, an update is expected in the coming days.

If the order is not renewed and SNAP benefits in turn decrease in Ohio, local food banks are expecting to see an increase in people requiring their services, adding to the already high demand for their assistance.

“It really is the perfect storm that could happen this summer. You’ve got kids who are out of school for the summer who would not be receiving the school lunches that they would typically receive, so many people are dealing with rising food and fuel costs," said Karen Pozna, Director of Communications at Greater Cleveland Food Bank. "Now in addition to that, there's the potential of the public health emergency order not being extended."

Pozna said that the food bank expects more people would require their assistance as they saw assistance from the SNAP increase repealed.

"If that’s the case, there are thousands of families and seniors and individuals who could see a reduction in their monthly snap benefits," Pozna said.

To prepare for that, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank said it has been working out a budget, keeping in mind the impact inflation has had on both food and fuel costs as it aims to increase the amount of food in its supply.

"We have adjusted our budget and our expenses to be able to purchase more food so that we can make sure we get that food out," Pozna said. “We just want to make sure that we have enough food to meet the continued need and that we work closely with our pantries, our hot meal programs, the various programs that we have…to make sure they have enough food as well."

Ohio residents, like Louise Brown in Euclid, said they are grateful for the programs that the Greater Cleveland Food Bank offers.

“Many of our families are in desperate need of food...the benefits are being lowered and we might be at risk of losing some of our food. It’s so important that we do whatever is needed and what we can to support each other and our food banks," Brown said. "After all we know, food is a nourishment for our soul."

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank, as well as all of the other food banks and programs across Northeast Ohio, are planning for the order to expire just in case it is not renewed. Meanwhile, Ohio Jobs and Family Services said that it is coordinating with counties across the state to prepare for the rollback of emergency SNAP benefits to ensure residents in need have the resources if and when that happens.

SNAP is a federally-funded program managed by the states. In order to provide the greatest level of benefits to Ohioans in need, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is following the timeline established by the federal government. Currently, the federal health emergency that provides the basis for emergency SNAP benefits is set to expire mid-July. That means emergency allotments in Ohio will last at least until that time. We understand that the ending of this federal program will result in fewer dollars being allotted to households for food, and we will be communicating with SNAP recipients and our county and charitable partners to provide advanced notice of the program’s ending, in order to provide as much lead-time as possible.

With an additional renewal still possible, Brown said she hopes that the government will consider extending the assistance that has helped provide food for those in need in her community.

“Please for our sake, for our seniors' sake for our children's sake—we need our food, we need our SNAP programs, we need to continue to provide so our families may continue to have the food that they need,” Brown said.

But if that does not occur and the declaration does expire in mid-July, resources like the Greater Cleveland Food Bank encourage those in need to remain calm, reassuring them that programs will be ready for increased demand because they've been preparing for every scenario.

"We do not want to panic in any way but we also want to make sure that we are there and that we will be there for anyone who needs help," Pozna said. "We’re there to help fill that gap and if we’re able to provide that food to them and make sure that’s one less thing that they have to worry about, then that's why we're there."

For those in need, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank said to reach out to the Help Center at 216-738-2067.

For those looking to assist the food bank in its efforts click here.

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