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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
1 Apr 2023
Lance Reynolds

NextImg:Massachusetts households set to receive state-funded SNAP supplements this week

More than half of a million Massachusetts households are set to receive state-funded supplements for food assistance on Friday, the first of three allotments over the next couple of months.

The state benefits, expected to be received by more than 630,000 residents, come after Gov. Maura Healey signed her $388.7 million supplemental budget earlier this week. The second and third allotments are scheduled to be delivered May 2 and June 2.

Healey and state food providers are calling the $130 million in benefits an “offramp” from the extra money residents had been receiving during the pandemic via the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The COVID-era subsidies resulted in an average bump of $151 to a participating household’s normal monthly benefit of $335, according to the state Department of Transitional Assistance.

Congress late last year disconnected the SNAP program from other pandemic relief plans, and February was the last month families received the extra federal money. Some observers said it couldn’t have come at a worse time, with inflation continuing to take a toll.

Since those funds have dried up, food insecurity has been on the rise across the state, hitting a level that agencies say mirrors what they saw during the thick of the pandemic.

Catherine Lynn, vice president of communications and public affairs for the Greater Boston Food Bank, called the state supplements a helpful cushion for families but also expressed concern that they won’t be enough for households to overcome the federal cuts.

“Even with this supplemental budget, we are going to see a huge, massive impact of need within the next three months,” Lynn told the Herald on Friday. “It just isn’t going to be as bad as it will be three months from now.”

Lynn highlighted how the state-funded extra SNAP benefits are up to 40% of the difference between a household’s normal SNAP benefit amount and the maximum amount for a particular household size, meaning the state is still 60% short from what the federal COVID program offered.

Roughly 21% of households in Massachusetts are considered food insecure, an increase from the 9% pre-pandemic, said Jen Lemmerman, vice president of public policy at Project Bread. Her agency’s FoodSource Hotline has taken in a 34% higher call volume compared to the same time last year, she told the Herald.

The minimum monthly allotment per household is $38 in the new state program, while the average household will receive roughly $60 per month, Lemmerman said.

“It’s going to give people that extra support as they continue to grapple with these high rates of food insecurity,” she said. “It’s certainly going to lessen the blow.”

Since the state benefits will last for just three months, Lynn is calling on the feds to step forward and ensure SNAP is adequately funded. She said regional food banks are not equipped to handle massive influxes of people in need.

Healey’s supplemental budget also includes $65 million for free lunches through the end of the school year.

“The question of whether or not the state continues to supplement what the federal government does not do becomes a philosophical question and a financial question,” Lynn said. “We are a state that is flushed with state revenue right now, but to continue to sustain that at those levels is probably not realistic.”