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COVID-era SNAP benefits expire next month

Emergency Allotment SNAP benefits started in April 2020 when the pandemic hit. Now, there ending in February.

COOLBAUGH TOWNSHIP, PA — Distribution day is one of the busiest times at Feeding Families Ministry in Coolbaugh Township.

But as SNAP Emergency Allotments (EAs) end, owner and founder Diane Tayburn believes more people will be reaching out for help amid high grocery store prices.

"We are anticipating that and preparing for that. So, we're bringing in extra trucks and more product for that," Tayburn said.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, nearly one million households in the state will be impacted.

SNAP EA benefits started in April 2020 when the pandemic hit.

Across the board, the average household in the state received an additional $180 per month.

"The SNAP Emergency Allotments really have been a stabilizing force for the vulnerable population of Pennsylvania who does receive SNAP benefits. It's been able to help them stretch their food dollars in this time during the pandemic," said Scott Cawthern, the acting deputy secretary for the office of income maintenance, Department of Human Services.

They end in February after Congress signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December.

Cawthern says you don't have to spend all your SNAP dollars at once; you can save them.

"They don't expire as long as the family continues to use the card each month," said Cawthern. "So, it's not like they're going to go away if they don't use all of the benefits at one time. So, looking at their SNAP balance and looking at how they can utilize those SNAP dollars across the coming months to help their family."

Cawthen says during the transition, many people will need to turn to their local food bank or pantry for help. He's encouraging anyone who can donate time, food, or money to do so.

"We're in need of volunteers. We're in need of more money to buy and purchase more food — fruits, vegetables, things like that — to provide for those families in need," Tayburn said.

Cawthern said impacted households should have already received a letter letting them know that the Emergency Allotments are ending.

People will also receive an additional notice letting them know what their regular household recurring SNAP amounts will be in March.

For upcoming changes to the SNAP program, click here. 

To apply for SNAP and other public assistance programs, click here.

People don't need to know their eligibility to apply for these programs. DHS will work with applicants to determine that.

Watch more stories about the coronavirus pandemic on WNEP’s YouTube page.  

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