Nearly 1 million Louisianans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the COVID-19 pandemic due in part to unemployment, but largely because of flexibilities offered by the federal government.
COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on SNAP Participation
The COVID-19 pandemic and federal assistance have led to a 27% increase in SNAP enrollments across the country, The Center Square reported. The pandemic forced businesses to shut down and caused widespread job loss, resulting in many individuals and families struggling to secure enough food to feed themselves and their loved ones.
The data on SNAP enrollments showed a surge during that period with over 42 million people enrolled in the program as of March 2021, up from 33 million in February 2020. This increase highlights the ongoing need for assistance programs to support individuals and families during times of crisis and economic hardship.
Furthermore, Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack’s report about the federal food stamp showed that recipients of the food stamp increased from 769,768 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020 to 981,751 in January 2021. The report says the impact of the pandemic resulted in more households becoming eligible for SNAP as unemployment claims increased to more than 2,000% from February 29 to April 25, 2020.
Flexible Terms for SNAP Qualification
The auditor pointed out that the ballooning SNAP participants are largely due to the flexibilities offered by the Food and Nutrition Services under the US Department of Agriculture. As The Center Square reported, they allowed states to extend certification periods and expanded the eligibility of recipients, which included even college students.
Due to these changes, individuals in the program were no longer required to submit proof of eligibility again, and closed cases were not taken out from the program just as how they should be prior to the pandemic. Within that period, food stamp benefits increased 107% from $292 per month per household to $562 in December 2022.