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Four Impacts COVID-19 is having on low-income Americans

Fresh EBT is a free mobile app that helps over 4 million low-income families manage their SNAP benefits. Through the app, users can access daily savings, income-eligible programs, and local employment opportunities, all available from partner organizations.

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Conducting monthly surveys

Undeniably, the COVID-19 crisis is having a devastating impact on low-income Americans. To understand how the circumstances in the lives of Fresh EBT users are changing, we have been conducting surveys each month. In sharing the key insights below, we hope that individuals, organizations, and businesses will better understand the changing needs and realities of low-income families and step up for those in need.






December 2020 key findings

The following insights come from a 6-minute multiple choice and open response survey conducted by Fresh EBT to a random sample of 3,530 Fresh EBT users from December 2 - 14, 2020. All respondents are EBT cardholders.


More respondents are going without food, even those receiving extra SNAP benefits

Source: Random sample of Fresh EBT users

In the past 30 days:


This is higher than at any point this fall.


report they do not have or are running low in the things their household typically needs. (Up from 50.5% in November)

For those receiving extra SNAP benefits

Food insecurity, by these measures, was also highest in December.

But they reported lower levels of skipping meals, eating less, visiting a food pantry, and relying on family or friends for meals compared to those who received additional SNAP benefits.

How have you been helped or helped others?

Well I have helped a friend her food benefits was cut off she has 5 children without food so I gave her meat out of my freezer she was very thankful.

SNAP participant, December 2020

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I filled my friends gas tank up last week because she did not have money to get gas for her car.  I fed my neighbors because they ran out of food.

SNAP participant, December 2020

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My aunt has helped my by paying for expenses for my toddlers like diapers and winter clothes.  My children’s daycare allowed me to pay a little later than I was suppose to.  And our pastor has given me money for gas.

SNAP participant, December 2020

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More respondents are uncertain that they will be able to remain in their current housing.

Source: Random sample of Fresh EBT users

More respondents are uncertain that they will be able to remain in their current housing.

(Do you think you will be able to stay in your current housing for the next 30 days?)



said they were not planning to pay December rent on time, in full, or at all.

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Black respondents were 2x more likely to report that they probably will not (or definitely will not) be able to stay in their current housing.

¼ of respondents are not planning to pay their utilities this month (and most will incur penalties):

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I had my electricity bill disconnected twice in the past three months, my phone bill disconnected. An ex coworker helped pay one of them.

- SNAP Participant, December 2020

How have you been helped or helped others? 

When i was evicted i gave out food an clothes to others i knew needed it.  Ive been trying  to give others rides to try an find jobs thats in a situation similar it  has been rough because we have no heat where we are residing. An the house needs work. Friends have been helping us by letting us come shower an cook until i can get enough to  buy a stove  an buy the pipes to fix the bathroom up where we are living at. But im thankful to have family. 

SNAP participant, December 2020

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I have been homeless since September 2020 with my three children. I have applied for several assistance programs with no luck. We don't have any family so we are alone. We stay from shelter to shelter daily so my children stay warm and safe. The past week we have been staying with friends and they have help as much as possible.

SNAP participant, December 2020

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More respondents are borrowing money to get by than ever before this fall

Source: Random sample of Fresh EBT users

Over 60% reported borrowing money or using credit to cover expenses in the last 30 days up from 55% in November.


of households with children are borrowing money or using credit to get by.

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Lots of ppl, my family included, are paying rent with high interest credit cards or payday loans. I have zero income and a newborn. I refuse to put him at risk by bringing him to daycare and doubling his risk with my working outside the home.

- SNAP Participant, December 2020

At the beginning of this pandemic I was holding down three jobs. I lost one due to feeling overworked as I also worked at a elementary school and own my own business cleaning homes. Thankful that I was able to receive unemployment and have my food benefits to help support my family. Since unemployment dropped drastically after the $600 a week was exhausted oh, things have been really rough. Being very responsible with my money, I did not make enough to pay my bills. I only have a few bills as priorities come first. If I kept every bit of my unemployment that I got per month I still did not make enough to cut even rent. I have been receiving help from my mother. When is pandemic started and up until now I have not been able to work and both of my children are doing virtual learning at home due to the pandemic.

All of this has given me no choice how to stay home. Diminishing any chances of income that I can receive. Recently I have conducted the plan that would make it to where I can work, but only part-time. My mother is willing to watch my children and work around her own personal struggles with work to accommodate me. She is gone to extreme lengths make sure me, her daughter who is 41 years old, that me and my girls are able just stay living in the home that we have resided in for the past 3 years. She is struggling to do this as this must be fixed. This is extremely rough on me emotionally because I have done nothing but work to support my family and live an honest life. I see no ending in the near future as this pandemic has no end itself.

- SNAP participant, December 2020

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More people are experiencing a reduction in wages/ hours rather than losing work. And fewer are receiving UI benefits.

Source: Random sample of Fresh EBT users

More people have had hours cut than lost a job in the past 30 days.


of respondents who are currently working are working fewer hours due to Covid-19.

Expectations for finding full-time work have declined:


of respondents say they hope to find a new full time job this month.  (Compared to 32% in November)

Percent successfully accessing Unemployment Insurance benefits has been declining.

A lower percentage each month are:


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