If not renewed in the coming days, a government COVID-19 emergency declaration made at the onset of the pandemic and renewed many times in the past two years will expire in mid-July.
Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans will experience a monthly reduction in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding when the order expires.
As part of the emergency funds, Ohio received around $120 million per month in extra food assistance dollars, which helped around 700,000 Ohioans in need. In April, the emergency decree was reaffirmed for another 90 days.
An update is due in the coming days, with President Joe Biden and his administration announcing that they will provide 60 days’ notice of their plan to end the declaration or let it expire.
Local food banks foresee an increase in persons wanting their services if the order is not renewed and SNAP benefits in Ohio are reduced, adding to the already high demand for their services.
“It’s a perfect storm waiting to happen this summer.” “You’ve got kids out of school for the summer who won’t be getting their school meals, and so many folks are dealing with rising food and fuel costs,” Karen Pozna, Director of Communications at Greater Cleveland Food Bank, explained. “There’s also the possibility that the public health emergency order will not be extended.”
Pozna stated that the food bank anticipates more people requiring assistance as a result of the SNAP increase being revoked.
“If that’s the case, there might be a drop in monthly snap payments for thousands of families, elderly, and individuals,” Pozna said.
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank has been working on a budget to prepare for this, keeping in mind the impact of inflation on both food and fuel expenses as it strives to expand the amount of food in its supply.
“We’ve altered our budget and expenses to be able to buy more food so that we can get that food out,” Pozna explained.
“All we want to do is make sure we have enough food to satisfy the ongoing demand and that we work closely with our pantries, hot meal programs, and other programs to ensure they have adequate food as well.”
Residents in Ohio, such as Louise Brown of Euclid, have expressed gratitude for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s initiatives.
“Many of our families are in severe need of food…benefits are being reduced, and we could lose some of our food.” “It’s critical that we do whatever is necessary and possible to help each other and our food banks,” Brown added. “After all, we all know that food is good for our souls.”
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank, along with all of Northeast Ohio’s other food banks and programs, is preparing for the order to expire if it is not renewed.
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Meanwhile, Ohio Jobs and Family Services said it is working with counties around the state to prepare for the elimination of emergency SNAP benefits so that residents in need have the services they need if and when that happens.
Brown said she hopes the government will consider continuing the assistance that has helped supply food for those in need in her neighborhood if another renewal is possible.
“Please, for our sake, for the sake of our seniors, for the sake of our children—we need our food, we need our SNAP programs, we need to continue to provide so that our families can have the food they need,” Brown stated.
If that doesn’t happen and the proclamation expires in mid-July, resources like the Greater Cleveland Food Bank encourage people in need to stay calm, reminding them that programs will be ready for greater demand since they’ve planned for it.
“We don’t want to panic in any way,” Pozna added, “but we also want to make sure that we’re there and that we’ll be there for anyone who needs assistance.”
“We’re there to assist fill that gap, and if we can supply that food and take one less thing off their plate, then that’s why we’re there.”
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank advised people in need to contact the Help Center at 216-738-2067.