CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The leader of a Charleston food bank says a historic expansion of the nation’s food stamp program will have a significant impact on West Virginia families reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning Oct. 1, all 42 million Americans who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be given $36 more per month to spend on groceries. The Biden administration announced the increase on Monday. the largest in the program’s history.
Ellen Allen, CEO of Covenant House, told MetroNews the 25 percent bump, from $121 and $157 per person, could prevent overcrowding of food pantries in the state.
“With more expansion of SNAP benefits, I think we’ll see a reduction of some of the families coming in because they will have additional access. Our pantries can get pretty stressed when food insecurity is as high as it’s been,” Allen said.
More than 17 months into the pandemic, Allen said they’re still seeing large numbers due to job lay offs.
“We’re seeing about 100 new people a month that previously had not used our services,” Allen said. “That’s a dramatic increase. They’re not people moving here. They’re mostly people that are underemployed.”
Allen said the price of food and other items has also increased in certain areas. She said the increase in SNAP benefits could help offset those costs.
“The cost of goods and living has gone up so much. They’ve had to pay their rent first before coming to us, so that’s been a new thing for us to have that many contacts a month,” Allen said.
According to numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Resources, 155,103 West Virginia households received SNAP benefits of June 2021. A household is everyone living together who purchases and prepares meals together. Within the households, 201,120 adults and 104,340 children received benefits.