More than 1 million Georgians to see increase in food stamps

Maya T. Prabhu/maya.prabhu@ajc.com

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Maya T. Prabhu/maya.prabhu@ajc.com

About 1.6 million Georgians will soon see a bump in food stamp benefits after the federal government announced a permanent increase of about 25% in monthly funds.

The boost in maximum allowed benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps — goes into effect in October.

In Georgia, that means the average four-person household will go from receiving a maximum of $680 per month in SNAP benefits last year to $835 beginning Oct. 1, according to data from the Division of Family and Children Services, which administers the state’s program.

“With their October issuance, eligible families may qualify to receive SNAP benefits at a higher maximum allotment than before COVID-19 began‚” said Jon Anderson, the head of DFCS’ Office of Family Independence. “The increase in the maximum allotments will help Georgia’s families meet their nutritional needs to purchase healthy foods.”

Need for food assistance skyrocketed at the beginning of the pandemic and has remained at higher rates than before COVID-19 caused many Georgians to lose their jobs. As of June, the most recent data available, more than 732,000 households received benefits, with an average of $339 per month. That’s a decline from a pandemic-high of nearly 912,000 households in September 2020, but still tens of thousands above the 627,000 households that received benefits in February 2020.

Federal and state governments have increased access to food stamps during the pandemic by waiving work requirements, giving every household the maximum allowed under federal guidelines and increasing the payments by 15%. That temporary 15% boost is slated to end next month, just as the permanent 25% increase goes into effect.

Anderson said he knows there will be is a long road to economic recovery once the pandemic ends.

“We don’t want families to worry about putting food on the table during this time of adjustment,” he said. “This couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Gary Uitvlugt, an Atlanta resident and retiree who receives food stamps, said he was excited when he first learned there was going to be an increase in benefits. But that quickly faded.

“(DFCS) cut me to $16 a month,” said Uitvlugt, 70, who retired after decades as a long-term care provider and lives off of his Social Security benefits. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t in an industry with very good retirement benefits. Twenty-five percent of $16 is $4. So I’ll be getting $20. You can’t eat on $20 a month.”

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