East Texas families benefit from increase in SNAP funding, online shopping options

East Texas families benefit from increase in SNAP funding, online shopping options
State experiences increase in number of SNAP benefits applications (Source: wsfa)

(KLTV) - East Texas families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will notice a significant increase in their food budget.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on April 22 it would increase SNAP benefits by 40 percent for qualifying families in all 50 states and 3 U.S. territories. The increase was approved as a way to provide better food security during the COVID-19 national emergency.

“Basically, the increase in SNAP allocation brings every household up to the maximum amount of funding that each household can receive,” said Tim Butler, program services director with the East Texas Food Bank (ETFB).

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law by President Trump, provides emergency funds in response to COVID-19. For SNAP, it meant nearly $2 billion per month, in addition to approximately $4.5 billion in benefits already provided to SNAP households each month, according to the USDA.

SNAP benefits are still issued based on income, assets, and the number of people in a household. The 40-percent increase ensures each East Texas family who qualifies for benefits receives the maximum amount for their household.

The following example was provided by the USDA:

Currently, a household with two adults, 3 children, and no income can receive the maximum benefit of $768. However, due to reportable income and other factors, the average 5-person household receives significantly less, $528. These emergency benefits would provide the average 5-person household an additional $240 monthly in food purchasing power, bringing the average household up to the same benefit level as households already receiving the maximum.

Texas Health and Human Services has also announced it is putting infrastructure into place to allow SNAP recipients to use their EBT or Lone Star cards for qualifying online deliveries, like Walmart and Amazon.

“They’re aiming for a May 18 rollout, and they’re going to bring on more retailers after that.

“Nothing should change on the client’s side if they receive SNAP, they can just enter their card information," Butler said.

Many states have seen a significant increase in applications due to the pandemic, according to USDA. Families in need are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to make ends meet.

“It is a pretty lengthy process; if anyone needs help, or isn’t super comfortable with a computer and just want someone to walk them through it, we have staff members here at the food bank to do that,” said Butler.

The application can be filled out online by visiting the Texas SNAP benefits website. Anyone without internet access can call East Texas Food Bank to fill out an application over the phone to keep with CDC social distancing guidelines.

Butler added that ETFB offers assistance with more than just SNAP benefits. The nonprofit offers assistance through senior food box programs, mobile pantries, monthly fresh produce drops, and more.

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