During the pandemic, low-income individuals and families in Maine were getting extra money to buy food each month on their EBT cards.
Now, the pandemic boost in SNAP benefits is ending.
For tens of thousands of Mainers with EBT cards to buy food each month, starting March 1 they’ll no longer get the extra SNAP benefits the federal government had been doling out during the pandemic.
With the extra pandemic benefits, Dannette Killinger got $516 a month on her EBT card to buy food for her and her disabled adult son.
She says next month, it drops to just $26.
“Twenty-six dollars,” Killinger said. “My son’s disabled and, you know, he’s a lot. He’s a grown man. And we both live on $914 a month.”
Congress authorized the additional SNAP payments on a temporary basis to help low-income people and families deal with the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now Tina Coughlin and her disabled son, along with her elderly mother, will lose hundreds of dollars in benefits.
“Hers is going to drop to $120,” Coughlin said. “For a whole month. We’re going to struggle. And I think that a lot of pantries are going to get overrun. Because people aren’t going to be able to buy what they normally buy.”
Local food pantries are already bracing for the impact.
“It’s going to be rough on a lot of families,” Dwayne Hopkins of the South Portland food Cupboard said. “We’re seeing a huge impact even with the increase of the cost of groceries.”
Every Thursday, the South Portland Food Cupboard helps stock the shelves in the homes of dozens of families in need.
“People are walking away from here with 25 to 30 grocery bags full of groceries, including fresh produce,” Hopkins said.
They’re also open Tuesdays for people to get some groceries.
Hopkins says he can only imagine what the demand will be next month.
“This is going to be an extra added impact, one that I think is going to be unprecedented,” Hopkins said. “And it’s going to call for a greater demand, a higher demand, of food and volunteers.”
Because of the emergency funding, Killinger managed to avoid the food bank.
Now, she has no choice.
“I haven’t been there in years, but we’ll find out,” Killinger said.
“It’s definitely the worst possible time,” Coughlin said.
About 100,000 Maine households receive SNAP benefits.
On average, they will be losing about $190 a month.
There are other options available to assist Mainers in need, including:
-Additional support for food and formula through the Women Infants and Children Nutrition Program is available to eligible Maine people who are pregnant or have recently given birth, people who are breastfeeding and infants and children up to age five.
-Eligible Maine people can request General Assistance funds to help pay for food from their local municipal office. Those who are unable to reach their local GA office or have questions can call a toll-free hotline at 1-800-442-6003.
-Mainers can call 211 for a list of local food pantries.
-Maine people who receive Workers Supplement Benefit will continue to receive $100 per month through July 2023, in addition to their base SNAP benefits.
-All children attending Maine public schools are eligible to receive free school meals.
-Many Maine families are eligible to receive the Child Tax Credit, which may provide payments of up to $3,600 per child.
-Eligible older adults can receive additional food support through the Office of Aging and Disability Services Nutrition Services Program, which provides congregate and home-delivered meal options through Maine’s five Area Agencies on Aging.