Emergency food distribution groups in New Jersey are warning of increased demand and “dangerous” results after the agency’s pandemic program that increased monthly food benefits ended in March.
That’s why some lawmakers want to keep expanding the National Nutrition Assistance Program — known as SNAP, sometimes called “food stamps” — using money from the government. They are aiming to pass a bill before the government runs out of money.
Due to the government’s COVID-19 funding increases, families will receive at least $95 per month under SNAP.
“People have been receiving these benefits for three years, they have been receiving emergency assistance benefits. And to suddenly say, ‘They’re going away,’ — it’s very dangerous in many ways,” said Adele LaTourette, senior director of policy and advocacy for the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. . “It’s so wrong,”
LaTourette said even though state officials knew about the deadline, for many SNAP recipients, the change was almost overnight. He said he spoke to a small restaurant that didn’t know the benefit would end.
“Of course, jaws drop when I tell them. I think people have a hard time understanding that,” he said.
When the state supplement runs out at the end of next month, eligible New Jersey families will continue to receive $50 a month, after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law last year to increase the monthly SNAP minimum from the government – set at $23 this year. New Jersey has become the first state to pass a bill to set its own minimum wage, hoping to end emergency federal funding.
But food shortage advocates say the $50 a month is half of what families received during the pandemic – and they expect the demand on food halls to increase if it is not returned. from the advantage.
“Imagine being an adult or a vet making a steady income, then having to deal with these prices, these prices that are going up in grocery stores. Their income hasn’t changed, so now they might go from two food banks to one,” said Julie Kinner, vice president of operations for Table to Table, a nonprofit in North Jersey to rescue food from restaurants and grocery stores and give it to those in need.
About 400,000 families and 770,000 individuals receive SNAP benefits in New Jersey, according to the Department of Human Services, which administers the program.
“We know the benefits of SNAP are temporary, but we also know the impact this will have on New Jerseyans who have benefited from increased assistance over the past three years. now,” Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman said of the change. benefits.
He encouraged households to check their benefits, be prepared before buying food, and pointed residents to nj211.org for information on other resources.
SNAP recipients will also be sent a letter next month with their new benefits. Residents can also check out online at njfamiliesfirst.com, using the Connect EBT mobile app or by calling 800-997-3333.
On Thursday, a bill introduced by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, to raise the monthly SNAP minimum to $95 passed Congress. The bill is pending a vote in the full Senate. But Coughlin said he believes there will be enough bipartisan votes to pass the bill.
“When we look around and we see that kind of need up close and personal, because it happens in every community, then you look at yourself and you say, yes, I have to support this,” he said.
Residents can apply for SNAP online or by calling their local social services office.