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Expanded SNAP benefits are set to expire at the end of April

SNAP benefits sign

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will be discontinuing expanded benefits for recipients of theSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the end of this month.

More commonly known as food stamps, federal COVID-19 emergency funds allowed for an expansion of benefits after a public health emergency was declared.

CurrentSNAP recipients willonly receive regular food stamp issuances beginning in May according to the Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS). This comes as inflation continues to rise, making it more difficult for lower-income and those on fixed incomes to get by. TheMountain West region currently has the highest rate of inflation nationwide andWyoming’s is also higher than the national average.

“It’s really a horrible time for folks who are relying on these benefits," said Clint Hanes, ombudsman and Public Information Officer for the Department of Family Services. "Not only do you have the decrease in the amount of the emergency allotment, that extra 15 percent, but coming out of this, you’ve got an increase in cost of living just in general across the board."

The cancellation or expiration of an emergency order nullifies the emergency allotment. Wyoming’s state of emergency ended on Mar. 14 but the state was able to obtain an additional month’s funding for a phase out period from FNS.

To make the transition for SNAP recipients less turbulent, DFS is working with local communities to spread the word about their other assistanceprograms.

“We’ve got our emergency rental assistance program that’s up and going, there’s childcare subsidies if they have children and childcare and they meet that income guideline they can get subsidies for that,” Hanes said. “There are emergency food assistance programs that are available for families.”

Local DFS offices, which are located in each county, have additional information on the state’s programs that are available. Those with questions may also dial 2-1-1.

SNAP recipients are allowed to receive benefits indefinitely and can theoretically do so for the rest of their lives if they continue to meet the program’s eligibility requirements, according to SNAP Program Manager Marianne Kerzman.

“In Wyoming SNAP benefit certifications are four, five, six or 12 months,” she wrote in an email forwarded to Wyoming Public Media. “Twelve months is only for elderly or disabled clients with no earned income. Four, five, or six months are determined by the worker depending on the client's circumstances. With COVID we have been instructing workers to give the longest possible certifications so almost everyone would be getting a 6-month certification.”

According toDFS data, there were 14,451 households receiving SNAP benefits in March, the latest month for which statistics was available. This equated to 30,714 individuals, who received on average $244.63 per person or $519.94 per household with just over $7.5 million in total benefits being allocated. Discontinuation of benefitsdatafrom late 2019 through March 2022 can be foundhere. The most common reason was that income earned exceeded thelimits for program eligibility.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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