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Maine organizations feel impact of emergency SNAP benefits ending

Organizations like the South Portland Food Cupboard reported seeing more folks needing food after emergency SNAP benefits ended on March 1.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The looming deadline for those receiving help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, has come and gone. 

On March 1, Emergency Maximum Assistance benefits for SNAP ended, and monthly payment amounts returned to the new normal of $23. That means recipients of SNAP are losing a minimum additional payment of $95 per month. 

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, about 100,000 Mainers receive SNAP benefits. Without the added benefit, many are having to go back to relying more on organizations for healthy meals. 

"We’re seeing some of that impact right now, but that’s going to really hit by the end of March and the beginning part of April," Dwayne Hopkins, the executive director of South Portland Food Cupboard, said.

Hopkins said most of the people they help are families.

"We move a huge amount of food every week," he told NEWS CENTER Maine. "They end up leaving here with between 25 and 30 bags full of groceries."

Although Hopkins said he's only just started to feel the impact of the emergency SNAP benefits ending, he's spoken with people who anticipate being affected.

"So far so good. We've been able to stay at the same amount of food that we've been giving to families. We're fortunate to be having enough food rescue donations coming in," Hopkins said.

Other organizations like Good Shepherd Food Bank report hearing of busy food pantries across Maine. 

"It's a very impactful decrease to people’s monthly budget," Amy Regan Gallant, the vice president of public policy and research at the Good Shepherd Food Bank, said about the added benefits ending.

"For the first time, SNAP recipients had enough money to go to the store and buy the food that they needed and wanted," Gallant said. "Now that money is gone."

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

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