Ahead of the third anniversary of the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, some COVID-era benefits are ending. The 15% emergency increase in benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), introduced during the height of the crisis, is set to expire at the end of February following the passing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 in Congress.
Starting March 1, SNAP recipients will receive allotments based on household income instead of household size, which was the pre-pandemic practice. That said, in the face of soaring inflation, a 12.5% increase in SNAP benefits was applied in October as part of regular cost of living adjustment. In addition, maximum benefit amounts to recipients in the 48 contiguous states were raised on Oct. 1, with varying values based on household size; the maximum benefit for a one-person household, for example, went up from $250 to $281, while payments rose from $835 to $939 for a four-person household.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did grant waivers to several states and territories to continue the emergency benefits through the early part of 2023. State SNAP agencies with acknowledged extensions through the end of January include Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. USDA granted extensions to SNAP participants in California, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin through the end of February.
As SNAP recipients are impacted by the changes, many grocers have updated or changed their own SNAP-related services. In 2022, Meijer began accepting SNAP benefits for pickup and delivery orders at all of its stores in Michigan and announced that it is offering discounts on fruits and vegetables to its SNAP customers. Likewise, Target shared that program participants now have the option to pay online at Target.com for grocery products eligible for SNAP assistance. Also in the e-comm space, Instacart recently launched a discounted Instacart+ membership for SNAP recipients, with unlimited free delivery on orders exceeding $35 and lower service fees, among other benefits.
Technologies continue to improve to help grocers offer such options. Earlier this month, payment processor Forage shared that it helped empower the first community food hub in the United States, The Hub on the Hill, to accept SNAP EBT payments online.
Privately owned Meijer operates more than 400 supercenters, neighborhood markets and Express locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The company is No. 20 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. is No. 6 on The PG 100, with nearly 2,000 locations.