Cleveland and Cuyahoga County residents who rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will notice a decrease in their benefits starting March 1. The federal budget that was passed in January did not extend increases that were authorized in 2020 to help families during the pandemic.
The decrease will range from $95 to hundreds of dollars per month, depending on a recipient’s income and household size.
Cuyahoga County officials estimate that residents will collectively lose $23 million in benefits per month. This cut will affect 212,000 people, or one out of six residents, according to county officials. The county’s Department of Jobs and Family Services, which administers the SNAP program, said it has sent letters to recipients notifying them about the coming cut.
Organizations that help families access nutritional food are concerned about the federal cuts. Julie Johnson, CEO of Hunger Network, said her organization helps people who benefited from extra SNAP benefits.
“We’re anticipating that towards the end of the month it may be heavier than even toward the beginning of the month because that’s when they’re really going to start feeling that financial impact,” said Johnson.
These recipients often used the organization’s MidTown Market, a grocery store-style food pantry that opened last July and provides city residents access to free, fresh produce and personal items. With the extra benefits going away, it will make it hard for even working residents to support their needs.
Since the market opened, Johnson said it has regularly served 68 families monthly, with more than 275 families walking through the doors since fall. Part of this increase in visitors to the market comes through word of mouth. The organization also partners with 79 food pantry locations across Northeast Ohio.
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Hunger Network has been accepting donated food products and items as well as encouraging other groups to host community food drives. With inflation and the rising cost of produce and grocery items, it has been hard for Hunger Network to purchase items in bulk for the market. Now, with SNAP ending, Johnson anticipates more folks will need food toward the end of month.
“SNAP is actually the most effective course for folks who are facing food insecurity,” Johnson said.
Research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows SNAP programs help reduce long-term health costs and improve the overall well-being of recipients. The program also helps stabilize the economy during recessions.
Johnson urges people who need assistance to reach out to local resources to help secure food.
“It’s almost like entering into COVID all over again,” Johnson said. “The challenges have not been this great since the pandemic began.”
For additional food resources, Cuyahoga County residents are encouraged to call the United Way Help Center at 2-1-1. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank also has a helpful “Find Food Near Me” tool available online.
Want to donate? If you are interested in volunteering, donating food or hosting your own donation drive, visit the hungernetwork.org.
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