DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowans receiving SNAP benefits are preparing for some major changes in the near future, as a pandemic support program comes to an end in April.
According to the Iowa Department of Human Services, in 2022, an average of 141,455 households were getting help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—a total of 287,098 people. That means a little more than 9% of the state's population will have a much tighter budget next time they go grocery shopping.
"The emergency allotment went up to $250 per month, and now starting next week, I'll be getting $20 per month," said Tara Kramer, a Des Moines resident receiving SNAP assistance.
Kramer is one of the many Iowans receiving SNAP benefits. Living with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes chronic pain and mobility issues, has made it difficult for them to work. That means that the extra benefits throughout the pandemic were a real lifeline.
"I could sleep better at night. I'm already not sleeping well again, and my anxiety is ramping up because there are so few opportunities that are realistic and accessible to me when it comes to food," Kramer said.
Each recipient will be losing at least $95 a month from their SNAP benefits, though many, like Kramer, will be losing more. As a result, local food banks are worried about an incoming surge in need.
"We're dealing with a really unpredictable situation of not knowing how many new folks, or folks that had been receiving assistance through food pantries, and haven't needed to come to them for so long, have now come back," said Matt Unger, CEO of the Des Moines Area Religious Council.
Those worries are coming at a difficult time; food banks are feeling the squeeze from rising grocery prices.
"We're really concerned about how much our volume increases and making sure that we can continue to meet those needs, because our costs for food are going up too," Unger said.
That leaves Iowans like Kramer in a precarious position. They told me that with the decline in benefits, stretching $20 a month is a tall order.
"I've got some tenacity and some flight in me, but I really don't know about the financial aspect of it. Life was so much better with the emergency allotment," they said.
Iowa isn't the only state ending their additional SNAP benefits. In March, 38 states gave out the extra money, but in April, that will go down to only 14.
If you're interested in helping support a local food bank, donations of food or money can be organized here.