Additional monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments given to Lehigh Valley residents have come to an end.
The emergency allotment was given to people who were already receiving regular-sized SNAP payments due to the financial strain the pandemic put on individuals and families. It started in April 2020 and ended in February.
The program is run by state agencies and funded by the federal government.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP provides “nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency.”
The program serves more than 1.9 million people in Pennsylvania, including more than 34,000 Northampton County residents.
The emergency allotments allowed residents to reach their maximum SNAP benefit amount of an additional $95 per month.
Susan Dalandan, coordinator for the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council, said low income households are not the only group that will be impacted by the reduction in benefits.
“The ending of the additional SNAP payment will affect farmers’ markets that accept the (electronic benefit transfer) benefits,” said Brian F. Moyer, co-chair of the council.
He collected market data last year and determined SNAP transactions happened at a consistent rate in farmers’ markets, but the renewal rate of these funds was down about 30%. He concluded people were spending the same amount, but less funds were replenished.
Dalandan said the council supports local and regional food systems to ensure everyone has access to healthy food.
It is expected that the ending of the additional payments will increase the number of people going to food banks in the area.
“The (council’s) vision is leading the voice for the food system for protecting our land, employing and feeding our neighbors, and focusing on accessibility, advocacy, aggregation and collaboration in the local food system,” Daladan said.
With the new SNAP policy changes, the council said they will continue to support the Lehigh Valley. Dalandan said they have been advocating for better food policies for over seven years.
Even before the emergency allotments were discontinued, he said there was a 50-75% increase in the number of people going to soup kitchens and pantries due to high food costs.
Lehigh Valley resident Stephanie Sigafoos discussed the impact the ending of the additional payments will have on Lehigh residents.
“It’s creating a terrible burden for Lehigh Valley families and all families, as costs only continue to rise,” Sigafoos said. “We’ll see more families struggling again that were perhaps experiencing some stability with those extra benefits.”
According to Pennsylvania Pressroom, eligibility in the program didn’t rise proportionally with 2023 changes to the cost of living, so people with Social Security income who have received SNAP aid in the past may no longer be eligible.
The Pressroom also provides resources available for those who need additional resources after losing the program’s additional benefits.
SNAP recipients who are pregnant or have children under 5 years old may be able to buy food from the Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program For Women, Infants and Children. The Senior Food Box Program can provide senior citizens who are eligible for SNAP benefits with additional shelf-stable groceries.