Back Into Crisis: The Impact of the End of Pandemic Benefits on Families

Dear LIFT community, 

On May 11th, millions of families lost the supports that have been keeping them afloat since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lost benefits include increased SNAP allotments that have been keeping families and children fed since the onset of the pandemic.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is the country’s most vital and impactful anti-hunger program. Additional funds have been distributed to SNAP-eligible families since 2020, increasing the amount families have available to spend on groceries and food. These increased benefits kept many families from hunger and lessened hardship during COVID. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the increase “kept 4.2 million people above the poverty line in the last quarter of 2021, reducing poverty by 10 percent ― and child poverty by 14 percent ― in states with emergency allotments at the time”. Black and Latino families experienced the highest reduction in poverty rates.

On May 11th, or earlier in many states, the additional funding came to a halt, reducing SNAP-eligible families benefits by $95 to $258, depending on the family structure. At the same time, the price of food and other basic needs continue to rise. Based on recent Census data, at least 25% of families across the country are already reporting increased food insufficiency. There is little doubt that the SNAP cuts will undermine the already diminished reduction in child poverty that resulted from a combination of strengthened safety net supports for families over the past three years. With the retraction of pandemic benefits, millions of families and children are more vulnerable to poverty, insecurity, and hunger.

LIFT members are among the families experiencing this drastic cut in benefits. Our members exhibit resilience day in and day out, navigating systems that were designed to limit their opportunity to a better life. These cuts directly impact their families’ stability and journey towards economic mobility. Families experiencing poverty have had the rug pulled from under them again as the loss of benefits sends millions into crisis mode, needing to choose between food on the table or rent. Thinking about long-term goals like going back to school or paying off debt becomes unimaginable when those immediate needs can’t be met first. And our parents have told us that inflation has made essentials like food, gas, and transportation even greater hardships. Prices going up without commensurate supports puts further stress on families’ finances and well-being.

While LIFT staff and coaches are working closely with families losing benefits to identify short-term solutions to keep their families fed and well, we know a system-wide solution is needed. LIFT calls for sustaining and expanding programs that keep families and children fed, housed, and on the path to a better future, including increased SNAP benefits, an expanded Child Tax Credit, and increased access to comprehensive, family-centered safety net programs. These policies must be built on a foundation of Hope, Money, and Love rather than on the distrust, ambivalence, and false notions of deservedness that take funding from these vital programs. All families deserve equal access to the resources we need to survive and equal opportunities at happiness and fulfilled potential. We need broad, federal interventions that put cash in people’s hands to support families, to close the racial wealth gap, and to end childhood poverty.

In solidarity, 
The LIFT Policy Team