SNAP pandemic emergency benefits ended in March

Starting March 1, 2023, Texans experienced a change to their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. At the beginning of February, the state announced the conclusion of the emergency allotment of SNAP funds to Texans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last payment of emergency benefits in February 2023 totaled $345.9 million, paid to 1.6 million Texas households and up to 3.67 million individual recipients.

What is SNAP?

Commonly known as food stamps, SNAP is a federal public assistance program that helps low income people and those with disabilities purchase food and reduces the prevalence of food insecurity. One out of every nine, or 3.7 million Texans, receive SNAP benefits, which support 6% of white households, and 20% of all Black and Hispanic households in Texas.

In Texas, SNAP food benefits are loaded onto Lone Star Cards for purchasing garden seeds and food such as fruits, vegetables, flour, meat, fish and dairy products at supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores and farmers markets.

What is the March 2023 change to SNAP?

The temporary COVID-19 Emergency Allotments (EA) were issued by the Trump Administration in 2020. This funding for additional SNAP benefits during the pandemic assisted millions of food insecure Americans over the last three years and has helped these consumers navigate food price inflation.

However, in March 2023, Texas along with 35 states and territories, are reducing their SNAP benefits and returning to baseline operations prior to the pandemic, due to a federal mandate. As of February 2023, 18 states had returned to their normal SNAP benefit amount (see figure below).

SNAP Temporary Pandemic Benefits End ChartSource: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Individuals will return to their pre-pandemic SNAP benefits, which are based on their household income, composition and size. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the average household across the United States should expect a reduction of at least $95. For Texas, CBPP estimates households will experience reductions between $81 and $189 in SNAP benefits per month.

How does this change affect Texans?

Since CBPP only provides estimates, our goal was to predict how much Texans will lose in emergency allotments using state-based data.

To better understand how SNAP benefits will change for Texans, we obtained SNAP recipient data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission published as recently as February 2023. On their website, Texas HHSC had complete monthly and annual data of SNAP recipients at the state and county level from September 2005 through January 2023, which we used for analysis.

We first calculated the average household COVID-19 Emergency Allotment SNAP benefit loss. Using January 2023 as a proxy of the final emergency benefit month, if the SNAP benefit returned to pre-pandemic levels, such as in March 2020, the average household would lose $119.80. We defined the pre-pandemic SNAP benefit as the average amount in March 2020, considering the health department announced that the public received the first emergency allotments in April 2020.

March 2020 – January 2023
$256.60-$376.40= -$119.80

We then calculated the average benefit loss by county using estimates from fiscal quarter periods as a more conservative and stable estimate. We used the most recent complete quarter, Q4 of 2022, and compared the difference two years prior.

Average SNAP Payment by Case: State TotalSource: Texas Health and Human Services Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) Statistics

Loss to average household: $122.95

We used the following formula:

Total SNAP payments formula

$264.55-$387.50 = -$122.95

Authors’ calculations using Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) Statistics from Texas Health and Human Services

As a result, we estimate the average Texas household receiving SNAP should expect $122.95 in reduced SNAP benefits as the average household SNAP benefits amount between October through December 2020 was $264.55 compared to $387.50 in October through December 2022.

It is important to note this is an ongoing process and the final data for February has yet to be released. Unfortunately, we won’t know the true benefit losses until later this spring with the release of March and April data.

Read more about SNAP benefits in Texas here.