Proposal To Boost Food Stamps Introduced

Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, D-East Elmhurst, is pictured speaking during a rally at the state Capitol Building in March.

Legislation has been proposed that would increase the state’s food stamp benefits to take the place of federal benefits that expired at the end of March.

Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, D-East Elmhurst, has introduced a bill (A.6214) to add a new section to the state Social Services Law establishing a state SNAP minimum benefit program that would make up the difference between a household’s federal SNAP allowance each month and $95 to each eligible household in addition to federal SNAP benefits. The legislation has been referred to the Assembly’s Social Services Committee.

Nearly 30 million Americans who got extra government help with grocery bills during the pandemic saw that aid decrease at the end of March. The additional aid averaged about $90 a month for each recipient.

“The sudden elimination of Emergency Allotment SNAP benefits will increase food insecurity for many individuals and families due to the high costs of food and modest allotment of pre-COVID SNAP benefits,” Gonzalez-Rojas wrote in her legislative justification. “This legislation would help support households in need from hardship and hunger by establishing a state SNAP minimum benefit program. This would give households receiving SNAP an additional monthly state SNAP benefit equal to the difference between the household’s federal SNAP monthly benefit and ninety-five dollars. This program would result in relief and support the wellbeing of our state’s most vulnerable families.”

Gonzalez-Rojas’ bill doesn’t give an estimated cost for the program, but it will likely be more expensive than a similar proposal in Massachusetts. Legislators there are proposing to spend $130 million to help extend enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP food benefits — long known as food stamps — to make up for the end of the enhanced federal benefit.

One of the reasons Gonzalez-Rojas gives for proposing additional state spending on SNAP benefits is the effect of inflation on food prices. According to an Associated Press report late last week, grocery prices dropped 0.3% from February to March. The cost of beef fell .3%, milk 1% and fresh fruits and vegetables 1.3%. Egg prices, which had soared after an outbreak of avian flu, plunged nearly 11% just in March, though they remain 36% more expensive than a year ago.

Despite last month’s decline, food costs are still up more than 8% in the past year. And restaurant prices, up .6% from February to March, have risen nearly 9% from a year ago.

Among the biggest drivers of inflation has been rental costs, which make up one-third of the government’s consumer price index. Rental costs rose 0.5% from February to March. Though still high, that was the smallest such increase in a year.

Those factors mean, in Gonzalez-Rojas’ view, this is a bad time to decrease help for poor families to buy groceries.

“These Emergency Allotment of benefits ended in March 2023, leaving SNAP recipients struggling to cover the lost benefits to feed themselves at a time when food prices remain extremely high due to inflation. In a 2022 study, the Urban Institute reported that the increase in SNAP benefits from Emergency Allotments kept 4.2 million people out of poverty in the fourth quarter of 2021, reducing poverty by 9.6% and reducing child poverty by 14%. The Urban Institute also found that Black and Latin households benefited most significantly from these additional SNAP benefits.”


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