A sign at a store in Muncie, Indiana, announces that the store accepts SNAP benefits. (Shutterstock Photo/Jonathan Weiss) SNAP benefits
A sign at a store in Muncie, Indiana, announces that the store accepts SNAP benefits. (Shutterstock Photo/Jonathan Weiss)

The 15% increase in monthly SNAP benefits in the American Rescue Plan helps 1.8 million Pennsylvanians and amounts to about $25 more per person per month.

For Jen, the increase in her monthly SNAP benefits has been life changing.

“The end of the month used to stress me out so much,” said the 33-year old single mother of four, who asked that only her first name be used because she is embarrassed about being on public assistance. “I never knew if I’d have enough money left to put food on the table. Would my kids go hungry? Would I have to ration food to make sure we made it to the next month? It was stressful, frustrating, humiliating.”

But the Allentown resident doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, or at least for the next few months. 

The American Rescue Plan extended through September the temporary 15% increase in the maximum SNAP benefit established in the COVID relief package passed in December. The increase amounts to about $25 more per person per month, or $100 per month in additional food assistance for a family of four.

It might not seem like a lot to some, but for Jen and her family, it has certainly made a difference.

“That’s an extra grocery trip a month,” she said. “And when you have four growing kids, it costs a lot to keep my kitchen stocked up.”

What Does the SNAP Benefit Increase Mean for PA?

There are currently 1.8 million SNAP participants in Pennsylvania, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The estimated total monthly benefits increase statewide is $46 million.

Amy Hill, a spokesperson for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, said the pandemic has definitely increased the demand for food assistance. Food banks are reporting significant increases in the need for food assistance in their communities, with an average 65% increase in demand, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

“More people now are qualified for SNAP and we are seeing our numbers increase on our Helpline,” she said. “The extra benefits are a lifeline for our neighbors in need.”

Hill said everyone wins when it comes to the increase.

“For every meal that the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank distributes with emergency food assistance, SNAP provides nine,” Hill said. “It is a significant and effective anti-hunger program. It is also a powerful economic stimulus program for grocery retailers and farmers’ markets.”

Pennsylvania Families Grateful for the Help

Jen said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has really hit her family hard. As a bartender, she has dealt with a reduction in her work hours, fewer customers, decreased tips, layoffs, and more.

“It’s been a struggle,” Jen said. “There were too many times when I didn’t know if I’d make enough to pay the bills. Then I had to worry if my kids were going to go hungry. I have never been so stressed out in all my life.”

More than 1.53 million Pennsylvanians experienced chronic hunger every day prior to the coronavirus pandemic, including 437,000 children, according to the PA Department of Agriculture.

“It’s hard to ask for help,” she said. “I feel like these are my kids and I should be able to care for them. But, these are my kids and I would do anything for them. No mother wants to see her kids go hungry. There was help available and I took it.”