Low-income Maine residents have begun receiving letters informing them that their Food Stamp benefits will be slashed in March.
In April of 2020, the federal government allowed states to increase Food Stamp benefits distributed under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in response to the COVID-19 government lockdowns.
But that emergency benefit increase is about to be taken away by the federal government and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, according to a copy of a letter obtained by the Maine Wire.
Starting in March, Food Stamp beneficiaries can expect the monthly credit on their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“This will likely result in a decrease in SNAP benefits for your household in March 2023,” the letter states.
Similar letters are likely going out in every other state, as the federal emergency provisions allowing for the increased benefit are coming to an end on March 31.
Although the pandemic has ended and the government lockdowns have been lifted, the harm of inflation has endured. Because of skyhigh inflation over the past three years, Maine Food Stamp users have seen a precipitous drop in the buying power of their welfare payments.
From early 2020 to present, the U.S. dollar has lost significant value in relation to the goods and services Americans require on a daily basis.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Inflation Calculator,” a $200 Food Stamp benefit in Jan. of 2022 had the same buying power as as $173.84 today — a more than 13 percent decline in the amount of basic necessities a Food Stamp allotment can purchase.
The real decrease in the value of SNAP payments may be even more severe, as many analysts believe the U.S. government’s measure of inflation is flawed and does not accurately measure the decline in the value of the dollar.
“We understand that this may cause a disruption to your food budgeting, so we advise that you plan in advance for this possible decrease,” the letter states.
The DHHS letter encourages SNAP recipients who fear they may not be able to afford food in March to see whether non-profits in their area can help.
The decision to slash Food Stamp benefits for Maine’s poorest residents will likely raise questions about the priorities of Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ administration.
At Mills direction, the Democrat-controlled legislature recently distributed another round of direct payments to some Maine residents, including to Mainers whose incomes are well above the threshold for receiving Food Stamps.
The summary of the biennial budget Mills recently proposed bears no mention of funding allocated to maintain the higher level of SNAP benefit, though such funding may be included when the text of the budget bill is released.