By Lynne Terry, Oregon Capital Chronicle
The state Department of Human Services expects to add nearly 20,000 more households to the federal food assistance program over the next year and a half as emergency benefits continue.
On Jan. 1, the agency expanded who can participate in the program by lifting the income limit.
The looser eligibility requirements come as emergency food benefits, distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, continue in February. The emergency assistance increases the average assistance per household by more than 50%, according to DHS. The average monthly SNAP payout would be $277 without the extra allotment. The emergency benefits add $158.
Food and other consumer prices have continued to increase during the pandemic. USDA economists said that the cost of eating at home rose 6.5% between December 2020 and December 2021. The biggest increase was in meat and veal prices, which rose nearly 10% compared with 1% for vegetables. The cost of buying food is expected to go up another 2.5% this year.
Nearly 400,000 households in Oregon receive SNAP benefits.
“We know that many rely on these additional emergency food benefits to get enough healthy food for themselves and their families,” Claire Seguin, deputy director of the state’s elf-sufficiency programs, said in a statement.
Many of those receiving the food benefits are also enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, which since March 2020 stopped booting people off when they became ineligible because of federal legislation. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act boosted Medicaid funding to states but required they stop disqualifying people on the government-paid health care. Oregonians who need to report changes or sign up for benefits can go to ONE.Oregon.gov, Oregon’s online website for Oregon Health Plan, SNAP, child care assistance and other benefits. Residents can also call 800-699-9075.
Government food benefits can be used in stores and many farmers markets for a range of food, including dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, snack food and seeds and plants to grow food. They cannot be used for alcohol, pet food or hot takeaway meals.
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