Chicago organizations brace for increased need amid SNAP benefit changes

Social service agencies are preparing for a possible surge in demand for resources once emergency funds that provide people with additional food benefits end.

About 2 million people in Illinois who receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will receive their last emergency allowance in February, according to social service providers. Since April 2020, participants have been receiving the emergency allotment in addition to their regular SNAP benefits as part of the COVID-19 relief efforts.

The federal government ended the emergency funds at the end of December when the Consolidated Appropriations Act was enacted. In Illinois, the change means that participants will receive their last emergency allocation in February, according to a news release from the Illinois Department of Human Services. Beginning in March, program participants will only receive their regular monthly SNAP benefit.

SNAP, once commonly known as food stamps, provides monthly funds for people to buy food.

The emergency allocation varied from case to case, but typically ranged from $55 to $255, said Sophie Milam, vice president of public policy for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Milam said the organization believes the change will lead to increased demand for services at pantries and food drives.

“Our network of food pantries and food access partners are already seeing significantly increased need,” Milam said. “We think a lot of that is being driven by food inflation, so cutting SNAP benefits will only leave more households struggling to make ends meet and more households turning to pantries to help make ends meet. of month”.

Over the past 12 months, prices of major grocery store items such as meat, fish and eggs have risen about 7.7%, according to a summary released in January by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. .

At the Greater Chicago Food Depository, they have been trying to get the word out about the changes to SNAP benefits, and are also looking at whether families might qualify for more benefits, Milam said.

“Their income has gone down, the cost of housing or childcare has gone up,” Milam said. “A family that has experienced some of those changes could be eligible for more benefits, and we want to make sure they are fully maximizing the benefits they are eligible for.”

They are also helping people find out where their nearest grocery store is in case they need to supplement their purchases, Milam said. The organization has a map of affiliated food pantries at

At Erie Neighborhood House, a Chicago nonprofit that serves low-income and immigrant families, workers have also provided people with information on the nearest food pantry. It also provides meals and snacks to children enrolled in its programs.

“We do that legwork for the client, especially if they don’t speak English, sometimes it can be difficult to navigate those systems,” said Roberto Mendez, director of communications for Erie Neighborhood House.

Lorien Ramirez, public benefits coordinator for Erie Neighborhood House, said families are concerned they will soon receive fewer benefits. The organization has been emphasizing monthly benefit budgeting techniques along with coupon resources.

“For the people who got the extra money, it helped a lot because of inflation,” Ramírez said. “So it was a huge relief for the families to get that extra money.”

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.