EL PASO, Texas (KFOX) — Congress recently passed legislation making February the final month for eligible households to receive emergency SNAP benefits before returning to pre-pandemic levels.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, is a program that helps people meet basic nutritional needs.
Beginning in March, SNAP recipients in 32 states – including Texas and Nex Mexico – Washington, D.C., Guam and the U.S. Virgin island will no longer receive the added emergency benefits, which are ending due to Congressional action in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.
According to New Mexico State officials, the state is ranked with the highest percentage of its population enrolled in the SNAP program with over half a million New Mexicans impacted.
Starting March 1st, the average household in New Mexico will lose about 25% of SNAP allotments.
The Texas Health and Human Services shows that there are more than 150,000 SNAP participants in El Paso County alone that will be impacted by the lower allotments.
Dr. Tom Fullerton, professor of economics at the University of Texas El Paso, said that most food items are more expensive than they were 18 months ago, leading many households to seek the financial assistance from SNAP.
He added that the impacted households will likely have to adjust the way they shop after they've become accustomed to the previous amount of benefits they were receiving during the pandemic.
“The households that are impacted by the rollback and SNAP benefits to pre-COVID levels are going to have to make a number of adjustments and probably move away from brand name items in favor of more generic or bulk items," Dr. Fullerton said.
Overall, he said the cutbacks on SNAP benefits will impact people in both El Paso and Doña Ana County throughout the year.
“In El Paso County and Doña Ana County, beginning in March, SNAP benefits are probably going to decline on average by about $300 per household. In El Paso County that translates into about a $46 million decline if it's sustained throughout all the rest of 2023," Dr. Fullerton said. “In the case of Doña Ana County, the decline in SNAP benefits if it's sustained over a 12 month period will be roughly $9.5 million. So these are fairly big cutbacks.”