FAYETTEVILE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Extra benefits to feed Arkansas families during the pandemic are now set to expire as a result of Governor Asa Hutchinson ending the state of emergency in May.
The expiration comes with a direct impact on something Arkansans relied on during the pandemic: extra Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs benefits.
Mary Franklin with the Arkansas Department of Human Services said the state applied for a transition month to allow the benefits to last through June 30, instead of ending with the state of emergency in May.
“Anyone who was eligible for SNAP but was not receiving the maximum SNAP benefit amount for their household size was getting supplement,” Franklin said.
After June 30, it will go back to being based on income and number of people in a household for those who qualify.
“For some time they may have been used to getting this larger amount and this amount is going to go back to the amount they should actually be getting based on the program policy,” Franklin said.
Director of River Valley Regional Food Banks, Tracy Engel said she has seen firsthand how necessary extra benefits were during a record year of hunger in Arkansas.
In 2019, when the big hundred year flood came, we went from about seven to nine million pounds a year to almost 12 million pounds a year. But in 2020 during the pandemic, we did over 22 million pounds a year.”TRACY ENGEL, DIRECTOR OF RIVER VALLEY REGIONAL FOOD BANKS
Engel said that great need is still present in Arkansas.
We have not seen it slow down since January 1 we are over 6 million pounds already.”TRACY ENGEL, DIRECTOR OF RIVER VALLEY REGIONAL FOOD BANKS
Engel said as families transition back to getting SNAP benefits based on normal requirements, she is concerned it still won’t be enough for some families.
“We have people calling us on a daily basis that are still in need,” Engel said. “People have lost their jobs or they have Covid and are having to quarantine and still need food.”
She said regional food pantries are prepared to step up and provide additional food for anyone who might struggle after the SNAP benefits go back to normal.
“Without our pantry to help subsidize that it wouldn’t be enough and that’s just the cold heart fact.”
Franklin encourages anyone who qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to update their information regarding income and household members so once the benefits do change, they are receiving the correct amount.