See above for previous reporting on the end of emergency SNAP benefits.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – More than 163,000 Franklin County residents are set to lose nearly $13 million in monthly grocery money as the government halts its pandemic-era emergency food benefits in March.

The Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services announced in January that the passage of this year’s federal spending bill ceased the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s coronavirus-related issuance of additional dollars to low-income participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Over a period of 12 months, that’s over $1 billion of lost food benefits (across Ohio),” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks. “It’s going to be substantial.”

What’s changing?

Families eligible for SNAP benefits are capped at a monthly payment amount that’s determined by income and household size. In 2020, the federal government issued a boost to families’ monthly allotments to offset the financial impact of the coronavirus.

For instance, a working family of three normally receiving about $180 in monthly food benefits was entitled to an additional $560, bringing their total monthly allotment to $740, according to Michelle Lindeboom, executive director of the Franklin County Job and Family Services.

Seniors, disabled individuals and those on a fixed income typically earned $23 per month, but since 2020, they’ve been receiving an extra $258. That brought their total emergency benefits to $281 –  nearly 12 times the amount to which they were originally entitled.

“We’re still seeing huge exorbitant food costs, so this was really vital aid for these families, especially those seniors, disabled people on fixed income,” Franklin County Job and Family Services spokesperson Bart Logan said. 

But when Congress passed its $1.7 trillion federal omnibus spending bill in December, the Department of Agriculture was stripped of its authority to authorize emergency SNAP payments as the government prepares to end its federal public health emergency in May. 

That means on March 1, SNAP recipients’ monthly allotments will revert back to their pre-pandemic payment amounts, a cause of concern both for SNAP families and social service agencies in Ohio.

“There’s not a whole lot that you can get with $23 a month,” Logan said.

Hamler-Fugitt, whose organization represents 12 food banks and 3,600 pantries across Ohio, said the end of emergency benefits could not come at a worse time.

From October to December last year, she said the Ohio Alliance of Food Banks served more than 3.1 million people – an all-time record that even surpassed Ohioans’ demand for food at the height of the pandemic.

“We’ve been drinking out of a fire hose for more than three years,” Hamler-Fugitt said.

Where to get help

In addition to the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, Lindeboom said there are several agencies and programs in Columbus that can provide financial support to those poised to lose emergency benefits in March.

“When they do call us and ask, ‘What can we do?,’ we are going to equip everyone with this information that can be helpful to the families,” Lindeboom said.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

Pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding women or children under the age of 5 who are already enrolled in SNAP are categorically eligible for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplement nutrition program run by Columbus Public Health, Logan said.

Qualifying WIC participants that meet a certain income requirement are eligible for electronic benefits to use at major grocery stores, breastfeeding equipment and education, infant formula, and referrals to health and social service providers, according to Columbus Public Health.

“They just need to find their nearest WIC clinic and call to set up an appointment there,” he said.

Office on Aging’s Home-Delivered Meals

Franklin County residents who are 60 years or older can get hot and cold meals delivered at no charge through the county’s Office on Aging. In January, the office eliminated income requirements for the Home-Delivered Meals Program until the end of 2023, Logan said. 

Visit the Office on Aging’s website for more information.

Food pantries, community meal sites

Ohioans can use to locate the nearest food pantry or community meal site, Logan said.

SNAP recipients can also review their monthly payment amount and current balances through the Ohio Benefits self-service portal or by calling 1-866-3071, Logan said. Information about a recipient’s case, such as address or employment information, can be updated through the portal or its hotline at 1-866-640-6446.