ODESSA, Texas — As the country progresses further from the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government is making a change to an emergency benefit that was created because of it.
When a public health emergency was announced almost three years ago, additional funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, was created. Now, that extra money will no longer be available come March 1.
“I think it will have an impact because people that were receiving that allotment additionally will not receive them anymore," said Soeli Erazo, the 2-1-1 Program Director in the Permian Basin for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
A decrease in funding for food stamp recipients is set to begin as the calendar turns to March.
The state of Texas notified those recipients about this change roughly a month ago, and now all of those people are in the process of reapplying to see if they are still eligible for normal SNAP benefits.
“Some people that did not qualify before the pandemic qualified during the pandemic, and they need to reapply to see if they still will be able to receive those benefits," said Erazo.
Texas has prepared 2-1-1 – its HHS phone service – to anticipate more phone calls from those in need of assistance.
Option 2 of 2-1-1 handles state benefits and option 1 deals with referrals.
“We are expecting – as 2-1-1 option 1 – we are expecting an increase in calls, like for food pantries, and if they needed to spend more on groceries for example, then we might have an increase in calls for other needs like rent or utilities, or any other needs that people may have," said Erazo.
As an increased number of people might struggle to buy food, 2-1-1 is ready to help.
“We have a lot of food banks, food pantries in our database, so I think we are kind of covered if people need to go and receive that referral," said Erazo. "I don’t know about the [West Texas] Food Bank, how they are doing, but I'm sure they are prepared.”
Erazo also said that it is important for those impacted by this change to see what their updated SNAP benefit allotment will be.
They can do that by calling 2-1-1 and selecting option 2 or 9, and they can also go to the Your Texas Benefits website.