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Changes for SNAP recipients coming March 1, 2023

As of March 1, 2023, Emergency Maximum Assistance benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will end, and levels will return to normal.

MAINE, USA — There's a looming deadline you should know about if you receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. 

As of March 1, 2023, Emergency Maximum Assistance benefits for SNAP will end entirely, and monthly payment amounts will return to normal. That means Americans will be losing out on an average of $82 per month of extra money they had been receiving over the course of the pandemic.

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, about 100,000 Mainers receive SNAP benefits. The minimum Emergency Maximum Assistance payment was an additional $95 per month. 

When payments return to normal one month from now, the amount a household receives will be based on family income and size. DHHS said its Office for Family Independence sent out a notice in January to recipients about this impending change. 

"Ten-thousand [Mainers] are going to get $16 per month on their SNAP card. That’s not enough in some cases to even get to the grocery store," Amy Regan Gallant, the vice president of public policy and research at the Good Shepherd Food Bank, said about the implications when this change takes effect.

"I feel disappointed that the stories and the data over the past three years of the COVID pandemic wasn’t enough to compel Congress to keep this as a permanent increase," Gallant said.

Gallant added the increased SNAP allocations happened in three phases over the pandemic. The first brought everyone up to the household maximum amount you could receive. The second included a 15 percent increase for everyone. The third gave Mainers who didn't receive a $95 increase from those first two steps the difference between their increase and $95. 

The change in benefits won't just affect SNAP recipients, according to Gallant. She said it will also affect businesses that rely on SNAP recipients to shop at their storefronts. Gallant added that with the emergency allotments, about $17 million more in SNAP money was coming into Maine per month during the pandemic.

"There are a number of stores across the state that are what’s called SNAP-dependent," Gallant said. "They receive so many customers that are spending their SNAP dollars there that that’s the majority of their revenue."

As a result, Good Shepherd Food Bank is preparing to see more need come March. Betsy Sullivan has been volunteering at the Auburn location since the fall of 2021. She said she was surprised to read of hunger statistics in Maine and wanted to help.

"Watching the quantity [of food] that comes through here and how quickly it moves out means it’s being used quickly," Sullivan said.

Sullivan added she wants Mainers to know she and fellow volunteers are eager to help, and no one should be afraid to reach out for assistance. 

"It’s really important to ask for what you need, especially if you’re struggling and have a family, children, elderly parents, whatever. You don’t need to be hungry," Sullivan said.

Chuck Hammond Jr., of Bangor, has been receiving SNAP benefits for about 10 years. He said the change in monthly allocation is going to be tough.

"It's just going to be pretty much a challenge without that extra help now," Hammond Jr. said, later adding, "[Just] get what you need: basic foods, milk, cereal, and whatnot."

211 Maine is also preparing to see an increase in need. 211 Maine program manager for the United Ways of Maine Nikki Williams said this year they have already seen a 43 percent increase in food-related needs. At the same time, Mainers are facing other challenges, too.

"We’re also seeing an increase in other basic needs, whether it’s for heat, electricity payments, rent payment assistance," Williams said.

There are some options for Mainers who need extra help once this extra benefit ends. You can:

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