Emergency SNAP Benefits Ended, But Older Americans Still Need to Eat. TSCL Working For $1,400 Stimulus Payment
By Daisy Brown, TSCL Legislative Liaison
A temporary boost to SNAP benefits (food stamps) that was put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic recently came to an end on February 28, 2023. This ending of emergency food stamps couldn’t have come at a worse time for millions of financially fragile older Americans who are trying to cope with multiple economic pressures.
No one can honestly deny the rising poverty numbers. Poverty rose among Americans aged 65 and older from 8.9% to 10.3% in 2021, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Older adults are the only age group that experienced an increase in poverty.
Even though inflation appears to be moderating for some items, food prices remain high — still about 10% higher in February than a year ago. The drop in emergency SNAP benefits alone is expected to be about $92 per month per person on average according to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. We are highly concerned that many older households aren’t getting enough nutritious meals.
But it doesn’t end there. Because of the significant 8.7% cost of living adjustment for Social Security benefits that took effect in January, eligibility for SNAP benefits has also been trimmed due to rising incomes as well.
TSCL is highly concerned that older and disabled Social Security recipients are the hardest hit by these benefit trims. As many as 47% of participants in TSCL’s surveys reported applying for SNAP benefits or visiting a food pantry during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021 through early 2022. That number has fallen somewhat but there are still 36% in our latest survey who report seeking food assistance. Meanwhile, the number of older households reporting that they have provided food, transportation, cash, or other assistance to family members or others in need climbed from 23% in 2022 to 29% in 2023.
The temporary emergency SNAP benefit cut-off was signed into law late in December of last year leaving little to no time for states or individuals to prepare. TSCL is working to get a stimulus payment of at least $1,400 for all Social Security recipients back on the Congressional agenda as quickly as possible. Because stimulus payments are not counted as income, those payments don’t create more benefit-trim headaches and are not taxed.
Sources: “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)” Center On Budget And Policy Priorities, February 2023.