May is shaping up to be a pivotal month for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps more than 41 million people avoid food insecurity. As America’s biggest anti-hunger initiative, SNAP was expanded to help the country cope with the pandemic. Now, that expansion appears to be winding down, which might indicate a shift toward a new stage in the ongoing public health emergency (PHE).
If you’ve been receiving extra pandemic-related benefits and your state recently called off its own PHE, don’t be surprised if your EBT card is reloaded with a lower amount in May than you’ve gotten used to. Other people might learn this month that they’re eligible for extra benefits for the first time. Many others won’t see any change in their benefits at all.
No matter the case, May is definitely a month where you want to be up to speed on what’s going on with the program and your benefits. Here’s what you need to know.
What Are the Maximum Benefits?
The maximum monthly benefits will be the same in May as they have been since last year when President Biden approved the largest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in SNAP history. The following is the most that the SNAP program will pay to a family of four in the month of May:
- The 48 contiguous states: $835
- Alaska: $1,074-$1,667
- Hawaii: $1,573
- Guam: $1,231
- U.S. Virgin Islands: $1,074
If You Receive Little or No Benefits, You Might Be Entitled to More
In March 2020, the CARES Act authorized emergency allotments (EAs), which increased the SNAP benefits that kept so many already-struggling recipients afloat at the start of the pandemic. The EAs were calculated by subtracting a household’s base benefits from the maximum benefit. That structure gave the most help to the families getting the least — those receiving the maximum or close to it weren’t affected at all.
On Jan. 22, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order that led to the expansion and extension of those EAs, and many states are still beefing up payments to their residents who receive SNAP benefits. Those who don’t receive benefits or who receive less than $95 per month are eligible for enhanced payments. Those who receive $95 or more will continue to receive their usual benefits.
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Which States Are Still Participating in the EA Program?
On April 12, the Department of Health and Human Services extended the federal public health emergency declaration, which means the federal government will continue funding EAs for the states through at least July 15.
The USDA, however, grants the waivers that make EAs possible only to those states that have issued their own emergency or disaster declarations.
In May, just 28 states received waivers, a significant dropoff that signals a winding-down of COVID-related emergency health declarations around the country. In January, February, March and April, the USDA granted waivers to more than 40 states.
You might be eligible to receive enhanced benefits if you live in one of the following 28 states:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
How Do I Know if I’m EA-Eligible in May?
If the USDA granted your state a waiver, visit the SNAP COVID-19 Emergency Allotments Guidance page for more information.
If you’re wondering when in May you can expect to receive your benefits, however, you’ll find the most important information on your state’s SNAP page despite the fact that the federal government funds the program. Just as the states are responsible for administrating SNAP, it’s the states that determine the payment schedules, as well.
In most cases, the schedule is determined by the last numbers of your benefits number or case number, but it varies by state — in some states, EBT cards are reloaded according to Social Security numbers or last names.
Some states pay on the first of the month, others in the first few days, others not until the month is almost over, and others stagger payments throughout the month.
You can, of course, Google your state’s name and “SNAP” to find your specific state’s page, but the food stamps app Providers — formerly Fresh EBT — maintains a useful database of state-by-state information. Just visit Providers.com and navigate to the “EBT in My State” dropdown menu. if you’re a recipient, consider signing up for the app.
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