Emergency SNAP Benefits End: Here’s What College Students Need to Know
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- A temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, ended after February.
- Congress authorized SNAP emergency allotments to help people through the pandemic.
- Congress also temporarily widened SNAP eligibility, a measure set to end later this year.
- Advocates warn that the end of additional benefits and widened eligibility could increase food insecurity on college campuses, particularly among historically underserved students.
Benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are returning to pre-pandemic levels this month, a move that some student-advocates worry could increase hunger on college campuses.
Increased SNAP eligibility for college students is also set to end after COVID-19 emergencies expire later this year, meaning some students currently receiving benefits will no longer be able to access the food assistance program.
Here's what college students need to know about the end of additional SNAP benefits:
How Much Were the Additional SNAP Benefits?
Emergency allotments allowed households receiving SNAP benefits, previously known as food stamps, to receive an additional $95 in benefits "or an additional benefit valued up to the maximum benefit for their household size, whichever value is greater," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service website.
While emergency allotments ended across the country starting in March, some states already returned to normal levels, according to the Food and Nutrition Service.
States that returned to normal SNAP levels before March included Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
Why Are Emergency SNAP Allotments Ending?
The increased benefits were a "temporary strategy" aimed to help people through the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Food and Nutrition Service. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 ended emergency allotments after February 2023.
When Will Expanded SNAP Eligibility End?
President Joe Biden told Congress in January that he will end a pair of national COVID-19 emergencies on May 11. That will mean an end to temporary pandemic-related exemptions that expanded SNAP eligibility for college students, according to the Food and Nutrition Service.
Students who attend college at least half time are only eligible for SNAP under specific exemptions, according to the Food and Nutrition Service.
In 2021, Congress authorized a pair of temporary new exemptions for college students: Students can qualify for SNAP if they are eligible for state or federal work-study programs, even if they don't participate, and if they have an expected family contribution of $0 when applying for financial aid.
That expanded eligibility will expire 30 days after the state of emergencies ends on May 11.
What Does This Mean for College Students?
The end of additional benefits coupled with rising inflation could lead to additional food insecurity on college campuses, said Mark Huelsman, director of policy and advocacy at Temple University's Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.
Roughly a third of college students experience food insecurity at some point in their education, Huelsman said. That food insecurity disproportionately affects historically underserved students, including low-income students and students of color. Students who have dependent children often rely on SNAP benefits as well, Huelsman told BestColleges.
"If students can't afford food or other basic needs, they're far less likely to succeed in school and much more likely to drop out," he said.
Huelsman added that the additional SNAP benefits, as well as the expanded eligibility, "were crucial to staving off the worst outcomes" during the pandemic.
What Can College Students Do?
College students who are receiving SNAP benefits should check to see if they are receiving their maximum benefits, Huelsman said.
"I think it's really important for students to familiarize themselves with all of the ways that you might qualify for SNAP through non-pandemic era exemptions," Huelsman said.
Huelsman noted that the USDA has a list of exemptions for college students on its website.
SNAP, although a federal program, is implemented by states. That means the process for applying and agencies responsible for the program vary by state, according to the College SNAP Project, which tracks different states' SNAP benefit processes. The USDA website also includes a directory of state SNAP resources.