SNAP benefits set to return to pre-pandemic levels in March for Virginians

Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 10:26 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Since 2020, close to half a million households in Virginia participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have had a monthly boost to help navigate the pandemic. But that all comes to a close at the end of February. Starting in March, families will see their accounts filled to pre-pandemic levels.

“We call it the benefits cliff, where benefits are reduced and so each SNAP recipient will have a decrease of $80,” said Pam Irvine, president and CEO of Feeding Southwest Virginia.

Feeding Southwest Virginia serves many who qualify for the SNAP program. Irvine is worried about the impact the decrease in funds will have.

“We know that those benefits were extremely helpful during COVID. We also know that it’s not enough and families that are on SNAP know that as well. This is going to be extremely hard, and families are not going to be able to adjust accordingly. I feel they’re going to be in trouble.”

The end of these emergency benefits is concerning for lawmakers as well. Right now there are no plans or legislation to make this boost permanent.

“We wish the federal government would have extended it. But unfortunately, a lot of families are going to be left out to dry,” said Del. Sam Rasoul (D), who represents Virginia’s 11th District.

Rasoul said he and lawmakers will be focusing on bringing down costs of essentials for Virginians at this year’s general assembly.

“We need to be working in every way possible to bring down the cost of the most important things, which for me also include utilities.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) also weighed in on the importance of addressing food insecurity.

“The COVID pandemic exacerbated many existing issues, including food insecurity, and I’m thankful that emergency funding we secured in 2020 boosted SNAP benefits and helped Virginians weather the storm. While the worst years of COVID may be over, our battle with food insecurity is not. We increased SNAP funding by $13.4 billion in the recent government funding bill, but we need to do much more. I’m committed to working with my colleagues on additional strategies to help ensure that no American goes to bed hungry.”

It’s important for families utilizing SNAP to know that February will be the last time the extra emergency funding will be added. For more information, head to the Virginia Department of Social Services website here and the USDA website here.