DSS: Maxed-out SNAP benefits ending August 1

DSS: Maxed-out SNAP benefits coming to an end August 1

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thursday, the South Carolina Department of Social Services confirmed emergency food aid benefits will no longer be maxed-out beginning Aug. 1.

SNAP benefits provide nutritional assistance to in-need families. The department announced in March 2020 they would be maxed-out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The change comes after Gov. Henry McMaster announced on June 7 he was ending the state’s emergency order.

The department sent a statement reading:

Federal policy requires that the national public health emergency declaration and a state-issued emergency/disaster declaration must both be in place to qualify for Emergency SNAP Allotments.

South Carolina has been authorized to issue Emergency SNAP Allotments for June under the previous state of emergency. We will request to issue Emergency Allotments for July as the state’s “transition” month. Beginning August 1st, SNAP households will go back to receiving their regular monthly benefit amount.

The department reports currently 295,000 households in South Carolina use SNAP, representing 610,000 people.

Its May 2021 report listed 24,306 households receiving SNAP benefits in Richland County (50,135 people).

The total benefits came out to $11,539,715 that month.

In March 2020, the department estimated the maxed-out benefits would impact “an estimated 176,000 households (about 66% of the total households currently receiving SNAP).”

The department reports the average household will lose $177 per month in benefits as a result of the change. However, benefit amounts vary because of household size and income.

WIS requested information from the DSS on updated figures for the expected financial difference for SNAP beneficiaries.

This comes despite claims by McMaster on June 7 there would be no changes for average South Carolinians as a result of his decision to end the state of emergency.

The governor’s office sent a statement reading:

“The governor’s decision to end the state of emergency was thoughtfully considered and discussed among all state agencies that have had a role in the state’s response to the pandemic,” said Brian Symmes. “Like federal unemployment benefits the additional, emergency SNAP benefit program was never meant to be a permanent fixture. The governor is confident that the normal, pre-pandemic SNAP program is the best way to move forward for South Carolina.”

SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center Director Sue Berkowitz said in the aftermath of the governor’s announcement, she reached out to the DSS about extending the maxed-out benefits with the federal government.

She cited Oklahoma, which in late May extended the benefits after canceling its state of emergency.

“When you limit what SNAP benefits are given to families, you’re limiting the ability to feed families. For children, especially children who are going to be home right now, because there are no camps or their childcare is closed, families are going to really be struggling on how do they make ends meet,” she said.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Oklahoma’s example, and the DSS deferred to the above statement from the governor’s office.

Harvest Hope Food Bank CEO Erinn Rowe said the end of the expanded SNAP benefits, in concert with the end of school and other pandemic aid programs, will likely drive demand, despite the job market.

“When you look at food insecurity, there are multiple root cause issues that drive it and it’s not just there’s jobs available. What kind of jobs are they? What is the pay rate? Like I said before if you’re making $12 an hour, and your total income for a year is about $25,000 and you subtract out your housing, your cost of living, your car, your transportation, there is very little left to buy food for your kids,” she said.

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