Changes are quickly approaching for families who have been receiving additional food and nutrition services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) says families enrolled in Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), better known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or “food stamps,” have gotten extra benefits each month since March 2020 or after due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. February 2023 is the last month these families will receive these extra benefits, called “emergency allotments” or “maximum supplements.” This is due to a federal change that will end emergency allotments for all states as of March 2023.
In a press release, Asheville-based nonprofit organization Pisgah Legal Services says those no longer receiving additional emergency allotments of food stamps will reduce the total monthly amount by $95 or more per household.
According to NCDHHS, the average benefit per person per day will decrease from $8.12 to $5.45. They estimate that an average of 900,000 North Carolina households received FNS emergency allotments since March of 2020.
“We expect that thousands more people in Western North Carolina (WNC) will be experiencing food insecurity in the coming months with food costs rising and benefits decreasing," Pisgah Legal Services COO Jaclyn Kiger said in the release. "People living in poverty are struggling to feed themselves and their families now and it’s only going to get worse when benefits are cut significantly in March.”
Both Pisgah Legal Services and MANNA FoodBank encourage local people in need to take the following steps now:
Make Sure Your Contact Information is Current
- For households receiving food stamps, contact your county’s Department of Social Services (DSS) and connect with the Food and Nutrition Services Department (FNS) to speak with a caseworker to report any changes.
Investigate All Available Resources
- Households in need of food, help paying rent or bills, or other immediate assistance should call or contact 211 to find out the most current information about local resources and services.
Make Sure You Claim Your Refund
- If you have not filed taxes in recent years, you may be eligible for a large refund from your tax return or missed stimulus checks, especially if you have children. Contact Pisgah Legal Services to find out if you might be eligible and to inquire about free tax preparation services at (828) 210-3404.
- Pisgah Legal Services also offers free legal assistance with certain tax issues through its new Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, created through grants from the Internal Revenue Service and Dogwood Health Trust. Call (828) 253-0406 or apply online at pisgahlegal.org.
Access Help Through the Healthy Opportunities Program
- North Carolina Medicaid Members with a Managed Care Medicaid plan may be eligible for food vouchers and other services to boost overall health through the Healthy Opportunities Pilot Program. For more information and eligibility information call (828) 278-9900 or visit impacthealth.org/hop.