ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DC News Now) — As the calendar flips to March, millions of struggling families who relied on extra food stamps during the pandemic are hitting a roadblock.
On Wednesday, the federal government cut off emergency COVID-era SNAP benefits.
For three years, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) gave households at least an extra $95 per month on top of their normal payments.
With those changes, food distribution centers across the country are preparing for a rise in the number of people in need of help feeding their families.
Here in the DMV, some groups have been preparing for weeks, if not months.
Workers with Alexandria-based nonprofit “ALIVE!” stocked shelves on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the reduction.
“People are already kind of feeling — or anticipating feeling — that reduction in benefits, and reacting accordingly,” said Timothy Enright, a program manager with ALIVE!
Enright said the organization gave food to about 1,300 households at a distribution event on the last Saturday of February — a nearly 20% increase from the number of households they helped the last Saturday in December.
“I’m anticipating needing to scale up again for March,” Enright said.
In an interview with DC News Now, Enright said he believed the main difference between this upcoming March, and March 2020, is the supply. He does not anticipate it being an issue now, although he said demand could be comparable to the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s kind of a different ballgame now than it was back then, but I think we’re still feeling the cumulative effects of all these years of uncertainty and instability and reduced income in already vulnerable communities,” he said.
He also shared his worry that many of the people who will be hurt most by the ending of extra SNAP benefits are the same people who struggled during the pandemic, and with inflation.
ALIVE! relies on volunteers like Son Nguyen, who said the busy days he’s worked in his first month in the role have been rewarding.
“Try to give back to the place I live,” he said. “It gives life more meaning.”
Enright is hoping the ALIVE!’s food hub can help, and he told DC News Now it’s planning on opening a second hub in the city on Thursday. He said the hubs offer food throughout the month, and that could help those utilizing SNAP benefits, who have to make that now-tighter budget last a little longer.
“[The food hub] really does help people come at a time that’s good for their own schedule, and relieve the stress of distribution events that are increasing in scale,” he said.
For more information on ALIVE! food distribution events, click here.