New SNAP Hurdle To Impact Thousands of Virginians 

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

By Carolyn Fiddler

June 8, 2023

As part of the agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling, Republicans created a new obstacle for those who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Here’s what it means for Virginians.

As Republicans negotiated with President Joe Biden to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt, they managed to saddle thousands of Virginians who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with a new hurdle to accessing those benefits. SNAP, a federal program designed to help needy families and households afford food, is a lifeline for nearly 850,000 Virginians, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A COVID-related support program that increased the amount SNAP recipients collected for the past three years ended in March, which resulted in increased pressure on Virginia’s food banks. According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, the program gave $95 extra to households that received the monthly maximum SNAP benefit payment. 

Since the program ended, one Richmond-area food bank reported that the number of households it served jumped by more than 200 in just a month.

“People are being squeezed on every level and every need, and food is one of them,” said Liberation Church Food Pantry’s Sonny Hoge.

Currently, requirements to obtain SNAP benefits include compelling people between the ages of 18 and 49 without kids to work or take part in a training program for at least 80 hours a month to receive SNAP; the new guidelines included in the debt ceiling agreement will increase the maximum age to 54. However, Democrats successfully negotiated a sunset provision for the new rule;  the age increase is slated in five years. Exactly how many Virginians would be directly impacted by the new eligibility changes has not yet been determined.

Of the nine Virginia metro areas with available U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data, Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News has the highest SNAP recipiency rate. While the SNAP recipiency rate across the state as a whole is 8.8% according to the ACS, 10.6% of all area households in this area of Hampton Roads received SNAP benefits in 2021.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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