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What to know about the expiration of Virginia's emergency SNAP allotments

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, SNAP households were afforded more food assistance under emergency allotments, which now expire this March.

NORFOLK, Va. — A years-long expansion in helping feed many Virginia families will soon come to an end.

Next week on Feb. 16 will be the last emergency allotment of benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. 

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred the initial emergency allotments nationwide through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which expanded the maximum amount of financial food assistance provided to SNAP households based on household size, rather than income. 

The newly passed Consolidated Appropriations Act ended the Virginia Department of Social Services' ability to continue authorizing benefits through the temporary federal program. 

State governments have been individually ending their emergency allotment distributions, and 17 states have already ended their emergency allotment distributions, according to the Department of Agriculture.

"The need has not dissipated completely in the way we hoped it would," Leah Williams-Rumbley said, the Senior Director of Advocacy at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. 

She added the change will mean a tangible difference for SNAP households moving forward when it comes to their grocery budgeting for the month.

Emergency allotments were allocated to SNAP recipients already enrolled in the program, not new recipients.

"The emergency allotment allowed for a minimum increase of about $95 per family. So when that goes away, that will be the minimum loss," she said.

SNAP households may still be able to maximize their aid allotments based on several criteria, if:

  • The number of people in their household has increased.
  • Their income has decreased.
  • Their housing, childcare (including child support expenses), and medical costs have increased.

Still, there are families who may not fit those criteria and will have to adjust to the allotment difference.

Williams-Rumbley noted that the years-long overages should mean families have a surplus since SNAP benefits roll over. However, it's unclear how long that might sustain families before places, like the foodbank, see an uptick in need. 

"We don’t anticipate folks who had a surplus will be finding themselves in dire situations right away, but we’re watching inflation," she said.

According to an earlier release from VDSS:

Since March 2020, the Commonwealth has issued more than 2.1 billion dollars in emergency allotments and raised the monthly issuance to the maximum allowable amount for over 900,000 individuals in Virginia.

SNAP-receiving households will return to the allowances they saw pre-pandemic as of March 1. 

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