- SNAP Emergency Allotments are ending after February 2023, resulting in $126 million reduction in federal SNAP spending each month in local grocery stores and farmers’ markets: potentially endangering the economic feasibility of grocers in distressed markets.
- Due to the economic multiplier of SNAP, Ohio’s economy will sustain an annual $1.94 billion reduction in economic activity in 2023 as a result of the SNAP cuts.
- Hunger and food insecurity are expected to climb, especially for Ohio families with children and older adults, both of whom are coping with the highest food inflation since 1979
- 673,000 SNAP households in Ohio will experience a benefit cut in March. The minimum benefit cut per household will be $95/month. The Ohioans facing the largest benefit cuts are working families and older adults.
- SNAP recipients are being notified by mail, text, and robocalls by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Those with questions should be encouraged to use the Ohio Benefits Self-Service Portal before calling their local JFS office due to long hold times.
- SNAP households should submit updated verification of shelter, childcare, and medical expenses as soon as possible to ensure their standard SNAP benefit is correct.
In March 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to respond to the health and economic crisis unfolding around the globe. Among other important provisions was authority for states to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to bring all recipients up to the maximum benefit level for their household size.
As my Community Solutions’ colleagues wrote about in 2021, these additional SNAP benefits – called “Emergency Allotments” – were an extraordinarily effective and efficient way to distribute nutrition assistance to the 41 million low-income individuals who qualify for the program.[i] Subsequent research shows the success of pandemic relief programs, including Emergency Allotments, in reducing hunger with food insecurity for households with children reaching a two-decade low in 2021 at 12.5%.[ii] Emergency Allotments also buoyed local economies by infusing federal resources and promoting economic stability in a time of crisis. SNAP has long-term benefits for society as well, with a robust body of research showing that SNAP participation is linked to improved health outcomes and lower healthcare costs.[iii]
SNAP has long-term benefits for society as well, with a robust body of research showing that SNAP participation is linked to improved health outcomes and lower healthcare costs.
Due to the prolonged nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, states were permitted to continue distributing Emergency Allotments for the remainder of the federal public health emergency. These additional SNAP benefits proved to be especially beneficial in 2022 when food inflation reached historic highs.[iv] Yet on December 29, 2022, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 which delinked Emergency Allotments from the federal public health emergency and required states to stop providing Emergency Allotments after February 2023. As a result, Ohio will lose $126 million in federal SNAP funds each month starting in March 2023.[v] Cuyahoga County alone is bracing for a $23 million reduction in SNAP benefits, representing a 43% cut in SNAP spending.[vi]
Emergency Allotments represents approximately 30% of all SNAP benefits currently flowing into Ohio. Ohio grocers will see nearly one-third of their SNAP receipts drop in March 2023 from the prior month.[vii] Due to the economic multiplier of SNAP, Ohio’s economy will see a loss of $194 million in economic activity each month as a result of this change. The premature end of Emergency Allotments will occur at the same time in 35 other states and territories. The collective hunger cliff – and associated reduction in economic activity – that is bound to occur in March 2023 can hardly be overstated.
Emergency Allotments represents approximately 30% of all SNAP benefits currently flowing into Ohio.
Impact on Ohio’s SNAP Recipients
All 673,000 SNAP households in Ohio will experience a benefit cut in March 2023 when Emergency Allotments end, with a minimum benefit cut of $95 per household. On average, SNAP benefits will be cut by $172 per household (or $86 per person).[viii] The biggest cuts will be endured by senior citizens on a fixed income and working households who typically receive a more modest SNAP benefit.[ix] For example:
- An older adult (age 60 or older) whose standard SNAP benefit is $23/month (minimum benefit) has been receiving the maximum benefit of $281/month thanks to Emergency Allotments. After February 2023, they will see a benefit reduction of $258/month.
- A working mother with two children whose standard SNAP benefit is $180/month has been receiving the $740/month (maximum benefit for household of 3) thanks to Emergency Allotments. After February 2023, they will see a benefit reduction of $560/month.
SNAP benefits are extremely modest. Without SNAP Emergency Allotments, the average SNAP benefit per person in 2023 will be just $6.10 per day. With food inflation continuing to squeeze household budgets, hundreds of thousands of Ohioans will need extra help from emergency food providers to feed their families when Emergency Allotments end.[x] Other states who prematurely ended SNAP Emergency Allotments, such as Florida and Kentucky, reported a spike in residents unable to feed their families.[xi],[xii] Ohio food bank leaders are expecting demand for emergency food to “increase exponentially.”[xiii]
During the four weeks spanning late May to late June 2021, before SNAP emergency allotments were cut in Florida, 19.4 percent of SNAP recipients said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat during the previous week, according to the Pulse survey. But from mid-August to mid-September, after emergency allotments ended, that number jumped to 47.9 percent.
Helping SNAP Recipients Prepare
In mid-January 2023, SNAP recipients across Ohio began receiving written notices, as well as robocalls and text messages, from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services alerting them that the last issuance of Emergency Allotments will happen in late February. These notifications are extremely important so families understand, and can begin to prepare, for a significant reduction in nutrition assistance. Other social service agencies can do their part to help spread the word about the end of Emergency Allotments.[xiv] Advocates for Ohio’s Future and the Ohio Association of Foodbanks developed flyers, social media graphics, and phone scripts for community organizations to use. In addition to sharing these materials, here are some important details to share with SNAP recipients in Ohio:
- Beginning March 2023, SNAP recipients will only get their “base benefit” which is deposited onto their EBT account on their “load date” in the first 20 days during the month. SNAP households will no longer get a second deposit – the “Emergency Allotment” – at the end of the month (typically the 27th or 28th day).[xv]
- SNAP benefits, including Emergency Allotments, do not need to be spent in the same month they are received. SNAP benefits remain on the EBT card for nine months before being removed (called “expunged”) so some households may choose to budget their last two months of Emergency Allotments to stretch their benefits into March and beyond.
Note: Due to the recent threat of EBT card skimming, SNAP recipients are encouraged to change their PIN number frequently, especially right before their next “load date” to protect against their benefit balance being stolen. See here for more details.
- SNAP households can report updated expenses to ensure their “base benefit” is correctly calculated. Many households likely have “base benefit” calculations that are too low, because JFS does not have verification of their shelter costs (rent, mortgage, or home insurance), child care costs, or medical expenses (for elderly or disabled household members only).
The Johnson family (household of four) earns $2,800 per month in wages. They pay $900/month in rent and pay separately for utilities (heating/cooling). They also pay $500/month for childcare.
- Without shelter and childcare deductions, the Johnson family’s “base benefit” for SNAP is approximately $325/month.
- After submitting verification of their shelter and childcare expenses, the Johnson family’s “base benefit” for SNAP would increase to approximately $662/month.
Note: This SNAP benefit is still $277 less than the $939/month benefit the Johnson Family was receiving with Emergency Allotments, so they will still experience a benefit cut in March 2023, but it will be less severe.
What households must do to prepare for the end of SNAP Emergency Allotments
In summary, the most important step SNAP households can take to prepare for the end of Emergency Allotments is to submit verification to JFS for all countable expenses. The simplest way to submit verification is by taking a picture of each document, such as a recent rent receipt or utility bill, and uploading it through the Ohio Benefits Self-Service Portal from a mobile device or computer. (See here for tutorial videos on using the Self-Service Portal. Read more of CCS’ analysis of the Self-Service Portal and its functionality here.)
If the SSP is too onerous to navigate, there are other ways households can submit verification. Some county JFS offices accept verification documents via email, including Cuyahoga County and Franklin County. Alternatively, SNAP households can always mail or drop off copies (never send originals!) of verification documents to their local county JFS office.
Impact on Local JFS Offices
Many SNAP recipients and JFS caseworkers have no experience with the SNAP program before March 2020. For that reason, they are unfamiliar with the standard “sliding scale” design of SNAP, whereby SNAP benefits are largest for households with little or no income, and smaller for households with incomes closest to the income eligibility threshold of 130% of the federal poverty line ($2,495/month for household of 3).[xvi] Similarly, households with higher shelter, childcare, and medical expenses generally have higher benefits than households at the same income level and fewer expenses.
Before the pandemic, under-reporting of expenses was a common problem and led to lower benefit allotments. With Emergency Allotments in place, however, it was less necessary for households to report all of their expenses, because for most households (except those at or near the maximum benefit amount), reporting expenses did not increase their total monthly benefit – just the timing of when it was received. Starting in March 2023, JFS caseworkers will be responsible for accurately determining both SNAP eligibility AND the correct benefit amount. Even minor mistakes in this calculation will result in payment accuracy errors and mandatory overpayment collections.
Whenever possible, SNAP recipients should be encouraged to get their questions answered without calling their JFS office (844-640-6446) to avoid very long wait times.
County JFS offices are bracing for a flood of calls as more SNAP households learn about the end of Emergency Allotments, and unfortunately, many counties are already overwhelmed by more calls than they can answer. Whenever possible, SNAP recipients should be encouraged to get their questions answered without calling their JFS office (844-640-6446) to avoid very long wait times. SNAP recipients who want to check their base benefit amount can call the Ohio Direction Card Customer Service Center at 1-866-386-3071 or visit the Self-Service Portal. Many food banks across Ohio also have trained SNAP application assisters on staff that can answer basic questions and provide case-specific guidance. In Cuyahoga County, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s Help Center can be reached at 216-738-2067.
[i] Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. SNAP Annual Participation, Federal Fiscal Year 2022. https://fns-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/resource-files/34SNAPmonthly-12.pdf.
[ii] Llobrera, Joseph. Food Insecurity at a Two-Decade Low for Households with Kids, Signaling Successful Relief Efforts, September 9, 2022. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. https://www.cbpp.org/blog/food-insecurity-at-a-two-decade-low-for-households-with-kids-signaling-successful-relief
[iii] Llobera, Joseph, SNAP Linked to Better Health Throughout Life and Lower Health Care Costs, January 11, 2023. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. https://www.cbpp.org/blog/snap-linked-to-better-health-throughout-life-and-lower-health-care-costs
[iv] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index: 2022 in Review, January 17, 2023. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2023/consumer-price-index-2022-in-review.htm
[v]Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State Template – FFCRA SNAP Emergency Allotment Request,https://fns-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/resource-files/OH-SNAP-COVID-EA-Extension-January-2023-Acknowledged.pdf
[vi] Cuyahoga County Press Release, January 11, 2023. https://cuyahogacounty.us/county-news/county-news-detail/2023/01/11/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-emergency-allotments-to-end-beginning-in-march
[viii] Forthcoming publication from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 2023
[ix] Food Assistance Change Transmittal 91: Maximum Allotments by HH Size for FY23, September 2, 2022. Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.https://emanuals.jfs.ohio.gov/CashFoodAssist/FACM/FACT/FACT-91.stm
[x] Emergency SNAP allotments to end in February, Greater Cleveland Food Bank preparing. https://www.cleveland19.com/2023/01/11/emergency-snap-allotments-end-february-greater-cleveland-food-bank-preparing/
[xi]Shields, Leah, Have your SNAP benefits gone down? Expert explains pandemic benefits are gone, First Coast News. February 15, 2022. https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/entertainment/television/programs/gmj/snap-benefits-down-expert-explains-pandemic-benefits-gone/77-121e4e86-545e-4ac8-ad68-cb55ee812461
[xii] Fu, Jessica, The US struggle to pay for food: ‘No matter how well you budget, you will run out of something’, The Guardian. November 22, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/22/kentucky-snap-recipients-allotments-reduced
[xiii] Slawson, Jeff, Emergency SNAP allotments to end in February, Greater Cleveland Food Bank preparing, WOIO Cleveland, MSN News, January 10, 2023. https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/nutrition/emergency-snap-allotments-to-end-in-february-greater-cleveland-food-bank-preparing/ar-AA16cdcJ
[xv] Clemente, Dasia and Bill Teets, Federal Government to End SNAP Emergency Allotments After February, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Press Release, January 10, 2023. https://jfs.ohio.gov/RELEASES/pdf/010323-SNAP-EA-Ending-News-Release.stm
[xvi] Food Assistance Change Transmittal 91: Maximum Allotments by HH Size for FY23