In July, Food Stamps Could Be Cut a Lot for About 700,000 Low-income Households in Ohio

Cars line up outside the Broad Street Presbyterian Church outside of Columbus on a Monday morning to pick up groceries from their food bank.

Demetric Blankenship and Orville Sharp III, on the other hand, do not have access to a vehicle, having come by bus or foot. They take their shares to a little park outside the church, inspecting what they’ve received and packing it into whatever bags they can carry.

Blankenship hastily checked his section, but there was one thing he missed. He yelled at Sharp, “You got any more meat?”

Sharp said, “They only gave me one, that’s all I got.”

Due to labor shortages and supply chain disruptions created by COVID-19, both food banks and low-income Ohioans are struggling to access fresh and healthful items as food costs rise.

Food insecurity in Ohio has also risen as a result of the epidemic, with 334,000 more people supported by food banks in March than two years ago.

Some people believe things will get worse.

Significant increases in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payments, or food stamps, will disappear for at least 700,000 Ohio households when the federal government lifts its COVID-19 emergency declaration in July.

This summer, more individuals are anticipated to turn up at food banks. Food banks may have to turn people away as they seek additional state funding to help.

“All hell will break out,” the Ohio Association of Foodbanks’ executive director, Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, predicted.

Increase in food stamps

Since the federal government permitted huge increases at the start of the pandemic, when COVID-19 orders had shut down enterprises and millions of jobs were lost, food assistance in Ohio has increased by almost $120 million per month.

Sharp claimed that before the outbreak, he was earning more than $180 per month. He’s now earning approximately $260. This corresponds to a $100 increase in the average SNAP payout per person in the United States.

Certain households, such as those with elderly members, suffered significant price increases. A senior adult living alone might have received $16 per month in 2019, but $234 per month during the pandemic.

Many people have been living with this reality for the past two years.

The abrupt return to pre-pandemic levels may need difficult budgeting adjustments and take many recipients behind the guard, as it did Blankenship, who was ignorant of the possibility.

He added of the administration, “They could have connected with us more and let us know that we’re the ones who have to suffer.”In July, Food Stamps Could Be Cut a Lot for About 700,000 Low-income Households in Ohio

Hunger advocates applauded the additional benefits, claiming that food stamp amounts were never enough. They cite studies and data showing that SNAP and other nutritional assistance helped people avoid starvation during the pandemic.

Not everyone believes it. A dozen other states, primarily led by Republicans, have pulled out of the SNAP improvements early, citing the need to move on from the pandemic and get people back to work.

“Right now, the federal government’s generosity in pumping money and sending it out is leading to inflation and high prices,” said Rea Hederman of the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank. He didn’t say if Ohio should have followed suit and withdrawn.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration has kept with the expanded SNAP part (which is entirely paid by the federal government) and appears to be sticking with it.

Several folks picking up meals at the Broad Street church expressed gratitude for the benefits boost, saying they’ll take whatever they can receive. They were still at the pantry for a purpose, even with the increased perks.

“There’s never enough,” Sharp added. “I’d be fine if it was just for me. But I have a large family.”

Ground-level impact

As inflation rises, many Ohioans have seen their food stamps buy fewer things at the grocery store. Healthier foods are more expensive.

“I can’t afford much. They say I need to follow a particular diabetic diet, which I can’t afford “Carol Haag said this as she piled groceries into a shopping cart and carried them to the pantry.

“Everything is so expensive that I can’t afford to eat vegetables or protein.”

She also claimed she is under pressure from rising rent, and that if other living costs rise, she may have to use some of her Social Security money to pay for food.

Sharp said he adapted to the higher pricing by purchasing more canned or boxed items, which have a longer shelf life and can be consumed over long periods. Others claim they just haven’t eaten.

“Sometimes I’d rather not eat,” said Blankenship, who has kidney illness and prefers to stay away from cheap fried foods.

That is why many people have turned to food banks to get healthful foods, but this is a temporary solution. Volunteers and donations are down. Securing food, particularly meat, has become considerably more difficult and expensive.

When asked what they would do if their food stamps were cut, several people at the pantry stated they would have to go to even more food pantries. But the Ohio Association of Foodbanks’ Hamler-Fugitt is skeptical.

“We’ll merely ration food once these cuts take effect,” she said. “All we can do is that. Food will be rationed. Smaller food banks are already reducing their services.”

Is there any solace?

Hamler-Fugitt said her organization is asking the state for $183 million from its piece of the American Rescue Plan Act to prepare for the end of the COVID-19 emergency. Around $50 million of it is required right now to assist food banks with pressing challenges.

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To compensate for lost donations and a reduced food supply, a significant portion of the funds would be used to purchase food. Other expenditures include hiring personnel, purchasing food delivery vehicles, building warehouses, and purchasing equipment.

Hamler-Fugitt said she contacted DeWine’s administration in October and is continuing to provide updates. Legislative discussions are also ongoing.

“We will do everything we can to help the people who are coming to us,” she added, “but we are currently unable to replace $120 million in SNAP payments.”

Any American Rescue Plan Act requests are still being reviewed, according to the Office of Budget and Management, and would require action by the state legislature.

Rep. Scott Oelslager of North Canton, the chairman of the Ohio House Finance Committee, said he was aware of the request but couldn’t say whether anything would happen before the summer.

“Once we know where we are and where the money is coming in,” he continued, “that will be one of the issues we will deal with.”

Last year, President Joe Biden’s administration permanently increased SNAP payments by more than 25%, the greatest increase in history. When the emergency ends, the cuts will be smaller. Congress may pass legislation to broaden the program’s scope.

The best-case scenario, according to Hamler-Fugitt, is that the COVID-19 emergency is extended beyond July, allowing for more benefit allocations.

Those on food stamps, on the other hand, claimed they can’t think about the future. Now is the time to put food on the table.

“All we’re trying to do is stay alive,” Blankenship added.