July 8, 2022
Currently, New Jersey is among the majority of states that have continued to leverage SNAP Emergency Allotments (EAs) to boost SNAP benefits for all SNAP households during COVID-19. When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration (PHE) expires, however, such EAs will end. With EAs in place, minimum monthly benefit households are receiving $250 a month. They will face a precipitous “hunger cliff” when the PHE expires. State supplemental funding such as that enacted in New Jersey’s legislation is one step that states can take to help mitigate the harsh impact of loss of EAs.
New Jersey has enacted legislation (Bill A-2366) that will bring the minimum SNAP benefit to $50 a month for those SNAP participants aged 60 or older or who have disabilities. The regular federal SNAP minimum benefit is a mere $20 a month. New Jersey will fund the difference between $50 and the amount for which elderly persons and persons with disabilities qualify under regular federal calculations. The state’s investment is an estimated $18 million. Other jurisdictions that provide funding to supplement SNAP minimum benefits for those who are elderly or have disabilities are the District of Columbia, Maryland, and New Mexico.
More action, however, is needed at the federal level to avert the looming SNAP “hunger cliff” and to promote food security beyond COVID-19. In addition to the loss of EAs, termination of the PHE will end the temporary suspension of SNAP time limits and end the temporary improvements in SNAP access for college students.
Priority federal bills would increase SNAP benefit adequacy, extend SNAP to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands (H.R. 4077/S. 2192), end SNAP time limits permanently (H.R. 1753), improve college student SNAP access (H.R. 1919/S. 2515), and allow SNAP benefits to be used for hot food purchases (H.R. 6338).