U.S. households that qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits were given a financial boost during the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of an emergency allotment that provides $95 or more in additional funds each month. In most states, that allotment has already expired, but more than a dozen states have extended it through October 2022.
The emergency allotment was granted to help SNAP recipients weather financial hardships caused by the pandemic. State SNAP agencies were allowed to issue the allotment payments on a month-to-month basis to all SNAP households that normally receive less than the maximum benefit. Households that are at or near the maximum SNAP benefit receive at least $95.
As long as there’s a national public health emergency in place — and individual states have established state-level emergency declarations — those states can opt to keep providing monthly emergency allotments. Public health emergencies are extended for 90 days at a time.
SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program that provides food-purchasing assistance to low-income households. Although it is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program is administered at the state level, and individual states set payment dates and other rules. Recipients now pay with electronic benefits transfer cards instead of food stamps, though some states have different names for the cards.
SNAP benefits can be used to purchase the following food items:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat, poultry and fish
- Dairy products
- Breads and cereals
- Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
- Seeds and plants that produce food for the household to eat.
Among the items you can’t buy with SNAP benefits are alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, vitamins, medicines, supplements, live animals, pet foods, cleaning supplies, paper products and cosmetics. In most states, SNAP benefits also cannot be used to purchase prepared food that is hot at the point of sale or meant to be eaten in-store.
As of Sept. 23, 2022, the USDA had granted waivers to the following states to extend their emergency allotments through October 2022:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
For further details, updates and to distinguish which benefits have been extended in your state, be sure to visit the USDA page for emergency allotments.
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