Georgia pandemic food stamp delivery ends May 31
Georgians who depend on food stamps are expected to see a sharp decrease in the amount of money they receive each month starting in June.
Indeed, the increase in food stamp amounts was related to the COVID emergency in Georgia.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision not to renew Georgia’s COVID emergency declaration in mid-April triggered the end of the federal program that provided supplemental food assistance to nearly 777,000 Georgians each month.
Each household received, at the very least, an additional $95 per month, said Kylie Winton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services, which oversees Georgia’s food stamp program. Some families received much more.
But in June, child support calculations will revert to the pre-COVID method which is tied to a family’s size, income and expenses, Winton said.
The decrease in food stamps — also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — comes at a time when food prices are rising.
Georgia can expect “a very steep hunger cliff,” said Ellen Vollinger, SNAP director for the Food Research and Action Center, an advocacy group in Washington.
“It’s going to hit different households in somewhat different ways, but it’s going to hit them all and it’s going to be hard on them,” she said.
Recipients of state food stamps were receiving nearly a total of $119 million each month in supplemental pandemic funding, according to Georgia’s latest filing with the federal agency that administers the program.
“That economic boost is going to be lost,” Vollinger said.
“It’s going to cause a lot of additional pressure on individuals and families,” said Ife Finch Floyd, senior economic justice policy analyst at the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute in Atlanta. “It may mean you buy less food because your other sources of income, your money, might have to go to other things: rent, utilities, gas.”
Food banks across the state are bracing for increased demand while dealing with rising food and fuel prices.
Although food demand is below its initial peak at the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020 and the first half of 2021, the Atlanta Community Food Bank is still distributing 30-35% more food than before the pandemic.
“Our costs are higher at a time when demand is increasing,” said Kyle Waide, president and CEO of the food bank. The organization is paying more for food and its vehicle costs are rising, mainly due to rising fuel prices.
“We preferred to find ways to extend the expanded and improved benefits of SNAP to Georgia,” Waide said. “The state made its decision for a variety of reasons, not just because it didn’t want to extend benefits, but there were other factors that contributed to that decision.”
“These are complex issues. … We work closely with partners in Washington on both sides of the political spectrum. … Everyone we work with believes that everyone should have enough food.
Most people who need food assistance, whether pantries or food stamps, are working, Waide said.
Brandy Roe is one of those hard-working Georgians who worries about the upcoming cuts to her food stamp benefits. The mother of five lives in Summerville. She works in a shoe store and her husband is a mechanic.
“Getting the maximum benefit amount from SNAP really, really helped us catch up and try to stay ahead of the curve,” Roe said of the increased dietary benefit amounts.
Roe estimated that the amount of food funds his family had received had increased by about $600, enough to cover almost all of the family’s monthly food expenses.
“We will do our best” when food aid drops next month, Roe said. “If it comes down to that, we’ll be eating a lot of sandwiches.”
Roe said she’s not convinced the pandemic is over, noting that she’s lost several family members to COVID and recently noticed longer lines for care. emergency she passed on her way home from work.
“Maybe Georgia really took the leap,” she said.
Earlier this spring, the General Assembly passed an omnibus mental health reform bill aimed at reversing the state’s dismal mental health outcomes.
But without an adequate supply of nutritious food, it could be difficult to address the mental health issues facing the state, said Dr. Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Obesity and Food Policy at the University of Connecticut.
“Research shows you’re at higher risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety if you’re food insecure,” Schwartz said. “Thinking you can take care of mental health when you’re not just meeting basic needs, like food and shelter, you won’t get very far.”
Earlier this month, Kemp announced the awarding of millions of dollars from federal relief funds to Georgian organizations to help offset the economic impact of the pandemic.
About $39 million of that will go to four organizations specifically focused on hunger: America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, a food bank in Savannah, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Meals on Wheels of Middle Georgia and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.
“We have had tremendous support from the governor,” said Waide, president of the Atlanta Food Bank.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.