What’s next for CalFresh participants now that emergency allotments are ending?
The end of the public health emergency with the COVID-19 pandemic also means the end of emergency allotments from the federal government for the CalFresh SNAP program.
The federal government issued a temporary increase to normal CalFresh benefit amounts in 2020 where households could receive the maximum amount for the size of their household.
Households already receiving the maximum received at least $95 in addition to their regular benefits.
According to the California Department of Social Services website, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 ends the issuing of these emergency allotments, which means the final emergency allotments will be at the end of March.
Going into April, households participating in SNAP will receive their regular allocated benefits without the extra emergency allotment funding.
Santa Rosa resident and single mom Jessica Lopez has a 1-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old daughter.
She said the extra benefits helped because she could afford the special baby formula her youngest daughter needed and food that her older daughter, who has certain allergies toward food, could eat.
“The pandemic food stamps honestly put a smile on my face because that meant I could use money toward a bill or to buy my daughter a pair of shoes,” Lopez said.
“I wish the government would help us out a little bit more because everything has been expensive, from the gas to our food.”
CalFresh program planning evaluation analyst Guin Zabinsky said there are about 24,000 households in Sonoma County that received some level of the emergency allotment with their CalFresh benefits.
She added that CalFresh has been working with the state Department of Social Services and local organizations to make sure these participants are aware of the timelines around the allotment ending.
“California had ended their emergency declaration and now the federal government is preparing to end theirs as well in May and the emergency allotments were linked to that,” Zabinsky said.
“There was an increase in the maximum benefit amount, which happens every year. This year was the largest increase that had occurred in many years and it was a response to inflation and the increased cost of food.”
Redwood Empire Food Bank Food Connections Resource Center supervisor Rigoberto Morales said the Santa Rosa food bank expects to see an increase in participation once the extra allotment goes away.
“A lot of families are going to lose the money that they need,” Morales said.
Morales and spokesperson Nicole Lorange said the food bank is equipped to handle the increased traffic expected once the extra benefits end.
“We’re always in need of donations and we’re always in need of volunteers and time to help us prepare because the lines do get longer,” Morales said.
Morales said the ending of this allotment has many SNAP participants worried that they are losing their benefits entirely. He said this is untrue.
Morales also said SNAP participants should constantly be checking their mail and recertify their CalFresh benefits when the time comes to ensure they don’t miss out on receiving aid.
Lopez said she’s going to start cutting back on some of the groceries once the final emergency allotments end.
“The money helped me out tremendously and it’s something I wish we could keep at least until the end of this year,” she said. “I’m just going to try and save as much as I can.”
You can reach Staff Writer Sara Edwards at 707-521-5487 or sara.edwards@pressdemocrat. com. On Twitter @sedwards380.