As of March 1, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were rolled back to pre-pandemic allotments.
“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress authorized emergency allotments to help meet food needs caused by record-setting unemployment,” reads a February press release from Pitkin County. “These emergency allotments were meant to be temporary…”
“All Coloradans who receive SNAP benefits are going to see a reduction in their monthly benefit amount after February,” the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) website echoed. “The temporary additional benefit amounts [emergency allotments] are ending due to the result of recent federal congressional action.”
According to Kristina Gonzalez, the program manager for economic security for Garfield County’s Department of Human Services (GCDHS) office, during the national public health emergency states were given the opportunity to opt into receiving additional funding towards SNAP benefits.
“Colorado was one of the states that opted in to give what we called ‘emergency allotment’ benefits,” Gonzalez stated.
Gonzalez conveyed that some households receiving SNAP benefits may notice a 50% decrease in benefits, while others will not see a decrease at all. Which begs the question, why will some see a reduction and others not so much?
Well, the emergency allotments doled out during the public health emergency period placed every household at the maximum amount possible for its size, Gonzalez stated. So, despite the overall decrease, some households will still qualify for a maximum benefit.
Gonzalez gave an example. “Say a household has three household members and they had no income and no expenses, then they would receive the maximum amount…” She explained, “If that household has three people but they have $1,000 in income and $1,000 in expenses, they may receive less than the maximum amount.”
When submitting an application for SNAP benefits, there are three components the processor looks for: monthly gross income, household size and allowable expenses.
“Whatever their pre-COVID benefit amount was is what they’re going to go back to,” added Gonzalez, “unless their circumstances have changed.”
With that said, every October the federal government does an annual evaluation and adjusts maximum SNAP benefit amounts by household size. That number typically increases year over year.
It may not come as a surprise that applications for SNAP benefits spiked during the peak of the pandemic. “In April of 2020, we received a 120% increase,” Gonzalez shared.
Currently, there are 2,216 families receiving SNAP benefits in Garfield County. Whereas, before the pandemic started, there were only 1,651.
Since the increased disbursements first rolled out two years ago, DHS has continually reminded SNAP clients that the extra amount will not last. Because the deadline was continually extended, it proved increasingly difficult to convey to clients that the reduction was inevitable.
“It was challenging because we kept telling people that it’s going to end and then it went on for two years,” concluded Gonzalez.
In 2019, Colorado dispersed a monthly average of $54 million to 224,236 households, Madlynn Ruble with CDHS told The Sopris Sun.
In 2020, the monthly average jumped to $88 million for 254,819 households. The 2020 disbursements did not yet include an additional $95 benefit for families already receiving a maximum allotment — that minimum increase was instituted in 2021.
In 2021, which included the $95 increase, the monthly average jumped to $132 million for 265,785 households. In 2022, the monthly average was $138 million for 282,161 households.
There is a difference between maximum allotment and emergency allotment, added CDHS SNAP Director Karla Maraccini. From April 2021 through February 2023, households would receive a minimum $95 emergency allotment. During that time, households with a calculated benefit already at the maximum would still receive the additional $95.
“For 2021 to 2022 the max allotment was roughly 30% of the total issuance amount monthly,” Ruble added. “So, the 2021 max [allotment] was attributed to $39 million monthly of the $132 million, and, for 2022, it was about $41 million of the $138 million issued monthly.”
People experiencing food insecurity in Colorado can visit the CDHS website, www.cdhs.colorado.gov/snap, to find out more about, or apply for, SNAP benefits.
In the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys, people can also visit www.tinyurl.com/AspentoParachuteFood for a list of pantries and distribution sites.