AUGUST 31, 2022
Pandemic-related food benefits are helping users cope with new challenges, but their days are numbered
With rising food costs and a looming recession, most Providers users are struggling to pay rent, avoid utility shut offs, and feed their families. At the same time, many of the pandemic-era expansions to the social safety net are winding down. In the past year, expanded unemployment benefits, the 15% boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Advance Child Tax Credit monthly payments have ended. Fortunately, most Providers users are still receiving more SNAP benefits than they ordinarily would thanks to an ongoing flexibility to deliver the maximum allotment of SNAP by household size.
States have had the option to issue the maximum allotment of SNAP, or $95 more than beneficiaries received before for those already close to the maximum, since the beginning of the pandemic. However, these emergency allotments of SNAP are contingent on federal and state public health emergency declarations. While the federal public health emergency declaration will last until at least October 2022, the growing list of states that have ended emergency allotments gives an indication of the impact of its eventual end.
Fewer Providers users skip meals or eat less where they are getting more in SNAP
Providers users often resort to extreme measures to stretch their food through the month, including skipping meals and eating less. But the percentage of users reporting eating less has frequently surpassed 40% in states no longer distributing emergency allotments since last fall. In July 2022, 40% of our users in states that have ended their public health emergencies reported eating less, while the same was true for just 36% of users in states still distributing emergency allotments of SNAP.
Over 30% of users in states without emergency allotments have consistently reported skipping meals since September 2021. In states still issuing emergency allotments, that percentage has remained lower throughout the same time period.
Providers users also sometimes turn to others for help in feeding their households, whether friends, family, or food pantries. The percentage of users reporting visiting a food pantry or relying on others for meals has generally been lower in states issuing extra SNAP benefits as well.
My SNAP benefits make it much easier to pay the rent, utilities AND eat.
— MANUELA, TEXAS
Emergency allotments of SNAP are creating slack in ever-tightening household budgets
We first began asking users about the cost of their basic needs in December 2021–did it cost more, the same, or less than a year ago to cover basic food, non-food items, transportation, and utilities. While over 70% of users said that it cost more to cover their needs in all these categories, food has consistently ranked highest. In July 2022, 91% of users said it costs more to cover their basic monthly food purchases than it did a year ago; up 8% from December 2021.
The rising cost of food has also been reflected in a question we’ve been asking users for some time–how much do you spend on food beyond your benefits each month? The share of users spending $100 or more on food each month has been rising across the board. However, it is lower in states that are still issuing emergency allotments of SNAP. In July 2022, 58% of Providers users in states issuing emergency allotments reported spending $100 or more on food beyond benefits, while the same was true for over 62% of users in the 17 states and territories no longer issuing extra SNAP.
Households have other material needs beyond food of course. Each month we ask Providers users if they have everything they need in their homes. Those living in states still receiving emergency allotments of SNAP have consistently experienced lower levels of material hardship.
In July, 47% of users in states issuing emergency allotments said they were running low or did not have what they needed at home. The same was true for 51% of users in states no longer issuing extra SNAP benefits.
It’s difficult to keep up with non-food items and laundry and gas. I have been able to handle the food because I have been getting the max. If they stop though I don’t know what I’m going to do. Where I spent $20 now it’s $50.
— CHERYL, OHIO
Food insecurity is on the rise for all Providers users
Despite the assistance being offered in most states, measures of food insecurity have been rising since May among all users. In July 2022:
Moreover, 47% of Providers users reported starting July running low on or without most things they needed at home. This is a level not seen since January 2021.
While the COVID-19 pandemic may be winding down, the expanded nutritional supports it generated are still clearly needed. We already know what will happen in their absence: more households will go hungry.
It has been several times when I have went to bed starving just so I could make sure my girls were good and full that night…It breaks me down when I hear my daughter say "but mommy you really need to eat to you need to keep your body nutrition"
— TIERNY, MI