Approximately 3.6 million Texans will see a reduction in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in March. The temporary benefit increases that helped people pay for food during the COVID-19 pandemic will end on March 1, cutting each household’s monthly SNAP benefits by at least $95.

In early 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which allowed states to provide each SNAP household with the highest possible dollar amount for their household size. For example, a family of four would receive a monthly benefit of $939, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Congress passed the Omnibus Appropriations Bill in December, making February the final month for the temporary emergency allotments. Monthly benefits are typically determined based on household size, income and expenses such as rent. Texans will begin receiving benefits based on these criteria in March.

According to Feeding Texas, each SNAP household will experience a reduction of at least $95 in their monthly benefits, but some Texans will see a much larger reduction. Feeding Texas is a nonprofit hunger relief organization with a network of 21 food banks.

In total, Texas will experience a $340 million decrease in benefits from February to March, the HHSC reported. The final emergency allotment is expected to be available in Texans’ benefit accounts by Feb. 28.

Maximizing monthly benefits

The HHSC mailed notices to each SNAP household earlier this year with information about the change. To find out how much their regular monthly benefit will be, Texans can visit, log in to the Your Texas Benefits mobile app, or call 211 and select option 2.

Feeding Texas encourages SNAP recipients to update their information if their circumstances have changed.

“If you’re paying more rent [or] getting less income than you were prior to the emergency allotments taking effect, make sure that you report any changes to your circumstances that might result in a higher SNAP benefit under the normal rules,” said Feeding Texas CEO Celia Cole.

People with disabilities and people over the age of 60 can report out-of-pocket medical expenses—such as over-the-counter medications, transportation and costs related to trained service animals—to the HHSC in order to increase their monthly benefits. A full list of deductions, or adjustments to the amount of income used to determine SNAP benefits, is available here.

Accessing community resources

Through the Double Up Food Bucks program, Texans can stretch their SNAP benefits to buy fruits and vegetables. Double Up matches every dollar in SNAP benefits used to purchase local produce at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets and grocery stores.

Over 50 locations across Texas participate in the Double Up program.

Texans can also visit food pantries and other community organizations for groceries and hot meals. There are 21 food banks in the Feeding Texas network, and they work with thousands of local partners to provide food to households in every county. A food bank directory is available online.

Cole said she expects that food banks across Texas will receive more requests for assistance, mirroring the situation in states that chose to end the emergency benefits early.

On Feb. 28, Cole said food banks were already struggling to meet demand. She explained that food donations have not kept pace recently with the increasing number of requests for emergency food.

“Due to inflation, people are simply having to stretch their food dollars further,” Cole said. “For staples that used to be relatively inexpensive—eggs is a great example—the prices have shot up, and we’re seeing food inflation at 10%. People are really struggling to buy food and pay all their other bills.”

Cole said it will be challenging to “do more with less,” but emphasized that every food bank in Texas will work to help people as much as possible. Feeding Texas also refers clients to its Referral Partner Program, which connects people with additional resources.

For information about social services such as food pantries, housing, child care, rent assistance and more, Texans can call 211 and select option 1. Information is also available online and through the 211 chat portal.

SNAP benefits and the Texas Legislature

The Surplus Agricultural Products Grant, which helps food banks obtain fruits and vegetables, currently receives $10 million in state funds for every two years. The Texas Department of Agriculture and Feeding Texas have asked lawmakers to increase the grant funding to $20 million for fiscal years 2024 and 2025, according to Feeding Texas spokesperson Wesley Story.

Cole said food banks use the grant to “rescue” surplus produce that cannot be sold due to imperfections or market demand. According to Feeding Texas, all money from the program goes to farmers and transportation providers.

The nonprofit is also working with bipartisan lawmakers to file bills in the House and Senate that would widen SNAP eligibility or make it easier for people to apply.

House Bill 1287 and Senate Bill 273 would annually adjust what portion of a vehicle’s value is used to determine someone’s eligibility for SNAP. Cole said some Texans are denied benefits because their car is “worth too much.”

According to Feeding Texas, the $15,000 limit on the value of a family’s primary vehicle was last updated in 2001, while the $4,650 limit for additional vehicles was created in 1973. This disproportionately harms two-parent households and jeopardizes people’s ability to work, the nonprofit said.

HB 1501 and SB 557 would give more college students access to SNAP benefits by including vocational and technical degree programs in the eligibility criteria. An inability to afford basic needs is the No. 1 reason community college students do not complete their degrees, according to Feeding Texas.

HB 1743 and SB 727 would allow inmates to apply for SNAP benefits before they are discharged or released on parole, mandatory supervision or conditional pardon. Feeding Texas reported that many people face unstable housing and employment issues after leaving the criminal justice system, which can make it difficult to access healthy food.

“I also want to make it clear that SNAP is a federally funded program,” Cole said. “So if we are serious about making sure that these benefits are adequate and available to everyone in need, that's something that Congress needs to act on.”

More information about Feeding Texas’ advocacy and platforms is available on the organization’s website.