Emergency Benefits Being Cut Off

Food banks nationwide are warning of the increasing financial struggles faced by working-class families as COVID-era Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits get to an end this month. According to Northern Illinois Food Bank President and CEO Julie Yurko, the majority of food bank clients are working-class families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Yurko, the Northern Illinois Food Bank CEO, has expressed concern that the number of clients will continue to grow as food inflation surges. Currently, the food bank serves around 450,000 clients per month, which is a 55% increase from the previous year, and most of them are working-class families. Recent data shows that the cost of groceries has seen an 11.3% increase year-over-year in January and a 0.4% increase month-over-month. The food bank serves the Chicago suburbs.

SNAP Benefits and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023

Last year, Congress temporarily increased SNAP benefits by $90 to $250 per household, depending on their assistance needs, to provide additional financial assistance during the public health emergency. However, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which passed in December 2022, gave these benefits an expiration date.

Following President Biden’s announcement last month that the COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration would end on May 11, some states have already stopped issuing emergency allotments, while others have seen benefits return to normal amounts. The latter includes California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and 24 other states and territories.

Food Banks Face Increased Demand and Strained Resources

Yurko added that the Northern Illinois Food Bank largely relies on donated canned or non-perishable goods, which may have slight damages that make them unsellable on retail shelves. However, these products are still safe for consumption, and the food bank labels them accordingly to distribute them to families in need.

With the increasing number of community members in need, the Northern Illinois Food Bank relies heavily on its 17,000 volunteers. Yurko mentioned that these volunteers annually provide 140,000 hours of service, which is equivalent to 60 full-time staff members.

Other food banks nationwide are also facing increased demand and strained resources due to the growing number of families facing financial hardship amid rising everyday costs. For example, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, food bank directors have reported that families are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for basic necessities such as bills, gas, and food.

As the COVID-era SNAP benefits end, food banks nationwide are preparing to face even greater service demand. Working-class families struggling to make ends meet will continue to rely on the generosity of food banks and volunteers to help meet their basic needs.