Food Stamps: New Jersey Nearly Doubles Minimum SNAP Benefit To Compensate for End of Emergency Allotments

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New Jersey has a solution to the upcoming end of emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits approved during the COVID-19 pandemic: increase the minimum monthly payment for all SNAP beneficiaries in the Garden State.

On Feb. 8, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill to ensure that every SNAP household in the state would receive at least $95 in monthly benefits starting on March 1, 2023. That represents a $45 increase over the current state minimum benefit of $50, according to the State of New Jersey website.

March 1 also happens to be the day that emergency SNAP allotments are set to expire nationwide. As GOBankingRates previously reported, SNAP recipients who qualified for the extra money will see their monthly payments fall by $95 or more.

The emergency allotment (EA) was first approved in 2020 to help SNAP beneficiaries weather the pandemic. However, an extension of the EA was not included in the $1.7 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act that President Joe Biden signed in late December, thus ending the emergency payment nationwide.

More than a dozen states had already ended their emergency payments for SNAP, the food purchasing assistance program formerly known as food stamps. But New Jersey lawmakers decided to take the lead in ensuring that their SNAP beneficiaries don’t take a financial hit when the emergency allotments end.

“As the federal government’s temporary boost to SNAP benefits comes to an end, we cannot ignore the significant impact this will have on households and communities throughout our state,” Murphy said in a statement. “No one should ever have to wonder where their next meal will come from.”

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By implementing a minimum monthly SNAP benefit of $95 for all beneficiaries, he added, New Jersey “is leading the nation in ensuring families have the support they need to keep putting food on the table. While we may be the first state to do this, it is my hope we will not be the last to put these critical protections into effect.”

SNAP is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but it is administered at the state level. So far, no other states have formally announced plans to increase the monthly minimum in response to the end of the emergency allotment. In fact, one state that is mulling changes to SNAP — Iowa — is considering a bill that would reduce the number of food choices for SNAP beneficiaries.

Anti-hunger advocates have sounded the alarm about the potentially devastating impact ending emergency SNAP benefits might have on millions of SNAP households. The cuts will affect more than 30 million SNAP beneficiaries nationwide, CBS News reported. The timing is especially worrying because of runaway inflation in the U.S. — especially for food, which has experienced double-digit inflation over the last year or so.

“This hunger cliff is coming to the vast majority of states, and people will on average lose about $82 of SNAP benefits a month,” Ellen Vollinger, SNAP director at the Food Research & Action Center, told CBS News. “That is a stunning number.”

In New Jersey, households approved for less than $95 in monthly SNAP benefits will receive their regular federal benefit plus an additional state supplement to bring them to the new minimum. The government website said that although most households will still see some reduction in their benefits, “implementing an increased minimum benefit will help soften the impact of the emergency allotments coming to an end.”

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New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) said the increase in the state’s SNAP minimum is about more than just paying out bigger benefits.

“When we started work on prioritizing the fight against food insecurity, which is really what this means, we had a lot to do,” Coughlin told NorthJersey.com. “That grew out of a sense that there is an obligation to do something that is really more akin to a moral obligation than to a governmental function.”

SNAP recipients in New Jersey are encouraged to check their benefit detail online at www.njfamiliesfirst.com, with the Connect EBT mobile app, or by calling (800) 997-3333.

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