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Oklahomans to see food stamp benefits decrease in March as federal pandemic program ends

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OKLAHOMA CITY — More than 400,000 low-income families will see a decrease in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in March when the federal government halts pandemic-era emergency allotments.

For nearly three years, the federal government increased SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the final emergency allotments will go out in February.

Oklahoma will receive about $50 million less in SNAP funding each month, a change that will affect all of the 408,000 Oklahoma households and 855,000 individuals receiving SNAP benefits, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

SNAP benefits, which help low-income families afford groceries and other food items, are entirely funded by the federal government. The monthly benefit amount varies based on household size, income and expenses.

In fiscal year, 2022, the average beneficiary received about $7.07 per day, which included the benefits boost from the federal government. Prior to the pandemic, the average beneficiary received about $4 per day.

This benefits reduction comes as food prices have increased due to inflation.

During the pandemic, SNAP recipients received their traditional benefits early in the month and their emergency allotment later in the month, when family finances can get tight, said Deb Smith, director of Adult and Family Services at DHS.

“We’re definitely concerned for our neighbors and families that have really become used to having this extra amount after three years,” she said. “We want to get the word out to make sure people know they can begin planning and look to see what other resources might be available in their communities to make up this difference.”

The upcoming cutoff for additional SNAP benefits was tucked into a federal spending bill President Joe Biden signed earlier this year.

DHS plans to send letters, emails and text messages to notify beneficiaries of the benefits reduction, said agency spokeswoman Casey White.

Hunger Free Oklahoma stands ready to help Oklahomans get connected to additional grocery assistance resources, said Chris Bernard, president and CEO of the organization.

“We know that these increased benefits have been important to so many Oklahomans over the last three years and that this change will impact some SNAP users harder than others, particularly our senior and disabled neighbors,” he said in a news release. “Undoubtedly, this will create an increased demand on our charitable organizations across the state and an increased need for Oklahomans to support their local food pantries and food banks.”

Pregnant women and families with young children may also qualify for food assistance through the federal Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC.

To apply for SNAP, visit okdhslive.org.


Featured video:

“Oklahoma has one of the highest concentrations of poverty that we’ve seen across the United States,” said Bradley Ward, program evaluator for the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency

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