July 28, 2022
Since the onset of COVID-19, several temporary Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) changes have allowed enrolled households to receive more robust benefits and eased access for unemployed and underemployed adults and college students. The changes are tied to the duration of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration (PHE). Recent research has confirmed strong public support around continuing these temporary SNAP improvements beyond the pandemic, and stakeholder engagement is on the rise.
Background on Temporary SNAP Improvements
On July 15, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra renewed the PHE, which, among other things, will allow states to continue to choose to leverage SNAP Emergency Allotments (EAs) for their SNAP households. This is pursuant to legislation enacted in March 2020.
In June 2022, 35 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands continued to issue federally funded SNAP EAs to their SNAP households. SNAP EAs have been a key factor in improving the purchasing power of households with low incomes.
The average SNAP monthly benefit allotment in April 2022 was nearly twice the benefit amount in pre-pandemic February 2020 (It was $228.21, a person, compared to $121.13, a person).
Nonetheless, hunger continues to be a serious problem in the United States. In February 2022, nearly one in six (15.8 percent) respondents to the Purdue University Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability survey reported experiencing food insecurity. According to the Purdue survey, rates of food hardship were especially high among the youngest adults. According to the Purdue Survey press release,30% of Gen Z households sought charitable/emergency food assistance, compared to 8% of Boomers.
When the PHE does expire, an even harsher “hunger cliff” is expected to hit SNAP participants : On average, most SNAP participants are projected to lose $82 a month in SNAP benefits.
Support for Averting a Hunger Cliff
There is widespread public support for averting a “hunger cliff.” According to Purdue, the overwhelming majority of survey respondents (64 percent) support SNAP benefit and access expansions beyond COVID-19.
In conjunction with the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, as well as elevating priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill, Hill champions and allies at the federal, state, and local levels have been making the case to strengthen SNAP.
In addition to people with lived experience with hunger who are testifying at listening sessions, other stakeholders weighing in include:
—Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC), Jahanna Hayes (D-CT), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-NM)
Urge More Members to Cosponsor Priority Bills
Strengthen SNAP agenda efforts are gaining traction. Legislation to improve SNAP benefit adequacy and extend SNAP to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands (H.R. 4077/S. 2191) has 109 House cosponsors; to end SNAP time limits (H.R. 1753) has 75 House cosponsors; and to improve SNAP access for college students (H.R. 1919) has 107 House cosponsors.
Join FRAC in building on this momentum for permanent change. Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor priority SNAP bills to address food hardship during COVID-19 and beyond.
 The survey question was worded “Permanently extend and expand pandemic-related changes to SNAP that increase benefits and lower barriers to participation.” See Jayson L. Lusk and Sam Polzin. “Consumer Food Insights,” Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability, Purdue University College of Agriculture, Vol.1, Issue 4, April 2022, https://ag.purdue.edu/cfdas/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Report_04-2022.pdf at p. 15