For the first time in more than four decades, recipients of a federal nutrition program will see a noticeable jump in food benefits, coming just as pandemic-related assistance starts to wind down for many families.
As of Oct. 1, payments for CalFresh (known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) will increase about 22% compared to pre-pandemic levels, the United States Department of Agriculture announced.
For a family of four receiving the maximum benefit, the difference is an extra $155 per month, according to Santa Clara County officials. When compared to benefit amounts that include temporary pandemic relief, their monthly allotment starting in October will be about $53 more.
“People are finally getting a bit more help to put food on their tables,” said Margareta Hodzic, assistant director of Employment and Benefits Services for the County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency. “This increase is even more important for our local residents, because it’s very expensive to live here. When you have to use most of your limited income for rent, utilities and transportation, there isn’t a whole lot left to feed your family.”
The number of people in Santa Clara County seeking CalFresh food assistance increased by about 22 percent since the pandemic began, according to county officials, with children and adults ages 65 and older making up more than half of those receiving assistance.
“These are members of our community who, before the pandemic, already faced more obstacles than everyone else. The more resources we have to make life more equitable for all residents, the more resilient we are as a community,” said Angela Shing, director of Employment and Benefits Services for the County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency.
To address the growing hunger during Covid-19, the federal administration increased the maximum benefit amount for all recipients, regardless of income level, and added a temporary 15 percent increase. While the maximum allotment will continue for now, the 15 percent bump ended on Sept. 30.
CalFresh Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards can be used at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and to purchase groceries online for home delivery through Amazon, Walmart and participating Albertsons, Safeway and Vons locations. In addition, the county’s Restaurant Meals Program allows CalFresh clients who are disabled, homeless, or 60 years and older to use EBT cards to buy prepared meals at participating restaurants.
For more information on eligibility and how to sign up for CalFresh benefits, visit the County’s Social Services Agency website at bit.ly/3abZiKt. Services by phone are available by calling 408.758.3800.