For many Iowans, food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are essential to ensuring they have enough food each month.
SNAP households have received additional benefits for the past two years, but this is going to change as the number of COVID recipients continues to fall.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) received additional funds when a state public health emergency was proclaimed in April of 2020.
Additionally, because the state of emergency has been declared over, the additional benefits have been restored to their pre-pandemic levels this month.
Amanda Warnell, a single mother who lives in Marshalltown, Iowa, says that this shift will result in a significant increase in stress when she goes food shopping.
Warnell is the mother of eight children, three of them have moved out and the remaining five are still living at home with her. The ages of the children range from seven to seventeen years old.
As Warnell explained, “it’s difficult when you have that many children and are just trying to make ends meet, especially when they’re teenagers and eat a lot.”
“At the moment, I’m a single mother. Because there is only one source of income in the household, losing half of those benefits will have a significant impact on me.”
According to Alex Carfrae, a public information officer with the Department of Human Services (DHS), the additional benefits that began in April 2020 meant that SNAP households would receive a minimum of $95 more per month,
with some households receiving significantly more depending on their circumstances.
Because of the enhanced benefits, Warnell’s family received $1,500 per month; now, because the benefits have been reduced to the original amount, she will only receive $800 per month, practically half her monthly food budget.
“It’s been a pretty fantastic feeling (the last two years) because when you get that extra amount, it simply lasts a little bit longer.” My typical, what goes through my mind in a month, without the additional, I’m probably out of food stamps in two weeks,” she explained.
Because of the lost benefits, it is more difficult for her to obtain foods that her children enjoy because they don’t last as long as they used to.
“I try to get the meals that kids enjoy and keep them for the end of the week, but you know, when they get home from school, they want the junk food and snacks as well. “It’s just extremely difficult,” Warnell explained.
With the lowered monthly SNAP payments, Warnell will be forced to either pick up additional shifts in her current employment or find a part-time job to supplement her income.
Warnell already works evenings at the Willows of Marshalltown, an assisted living facility, full time at 40 hours a week.
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“I need to put more money towards providing more food for the kids,” Warnell explained.
Warnell believes that extending the additional SNAP benefits would be incredibly beneficial to not only hear but also to many other people who are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis.
“Working is difficult for a large number of people. It’s not just that some people don’t want to work; because of the pandemic and the state of people’s immune systems, some people are simply unable to work.
“There are still a lot of places that are closed and only allowing people to work from home, so I think if they would extend that, it would really help a lot of people,” Warnell said.
In accordance with the Department of Homeland Security data provided by Carfrae, Marshall County has 1,836 SNAP households with a total of 4,006 beneficiaries.
In addition to the additional cash, the average monthly benefit is $501, but that amount will decrease now that the additional benefits have stopped.