Step Forward prepares clients for SNAP benefit reduction
Right now, families across Northeast Ohio are on edge. They recently learned of a federal policy change that will reduce their SNAP benefits significantly.
In 2020, the federal government boost benefits to help families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency allotments were scheduled to end in February 2023. Now, many households will return to their “normal” benefit amounts, which could be significantly lower. The average cut in benefits will vary by household income, size and composition. Analysts have warned a family of four could see their monthly benefits more than $500 per month.
“Families are already having to make difficult decisions as to whether to put food on the table or pay their bills,” Miriam Bridget, Site Coordinator at Step Forward’s Neighborhood Opportunity Center in Warrensville Heights, said. “This reduction in SNAP benefits is only going to make the situation more challenging.”
Bridget and the staff members at Step Forward expect they will soon see an increase in people turning to the anti-poverty agency for emergency assistance and specifically, food vouchers. In fact, they have already heard from pregnant mothers who have mentioned the long delays in obtaining WIC support. They are concerned about being able to provide for themselves and their young children.
“We provide food vouchers, but now the amounts we used to offer people aren’t lasting as long because prices on everything have gone up,” Bridget explained. “The workers are advocating for more, but everything is so expensive that the assistance anyone provides is not going as far.”
Bridget is especially concerned about helping people in Warrensville Heights, since according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is one of the dozens of food deserts in Northeast Ohio (2). A food desert is a geographical area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Such areas are often impoverished. Frequently, people living in food deserts rely on convenience stores and dollar stores, where they are obligated to purchase processed foods.
“There are a lot of barriers that come into play, too, when talking about food deserts,” Bridget explained. “Transportation, for example, is a barrier. There are people who do not have a car to get to a store that provides nutritious food, especially elderly individuals or those who don’t have the income. Many cannot afford a bus pass to get to major grocery chains. Instead, it is more convenient to walk to a corner store and purchase cheap, high-calorie, preservative-filled foods that are not considered healthy, but they can get more for their money."
In Ohio, it is estimated that 673,000 households will experience a benefit reduction in March 2023 (3). At least 212,000 Cuyahoga County residents will be affected. (4)
Step Forward, the state’s designated anti-poverty agency for Cuyahoga County, is prepared. Staff encourages those who need emergency assistance to call their nearest Neighborhood Opportunity Center. The agency hopes to connect individuals with professional development programs for adult skills training and workshops, as well as employment connection, and provide vouchers to help make ends meet.
“We are here to help. We know this is reality. It is our reality,” Bridget said.
Those who want to check their benefit amounts are encouraged to call the Ohio Direction Card Customer Service Center or visit the Self-Service Portal.
If you would like to locate your nearest Neighborhood Opportunity Center for an appointment, click here.
1. Federal anti-hunger aid in Ohio being slashed by over $1.2 billion dollars in 2023; working families and older adults to see biggest cuts; Cahill, Rachel. Retrieved February 16, 2023.