Pennsylvania’s SNAP benefits up 76% since 2019



(The Center Square) — When the pandemic hit, state and federal governments upped financial aid to the public with more welfare benefits, stimulus checks and loans.

That aid is still high in some cases, with no signs of changing.

In Pennsylvania, total monthly SNAP benefits are up 76% compared to November 2019 before COVID-19 hit, according to an analysis by the Independent Fiscal Office.

The boost comes from a 16% rise in the number of recipients, and a 52% boost to average monthly benefits.

SNAP benefits went from $208 million in 2019 and peaked at $531 million in 2022, falling to $366 million in 2023.

“The SNAP expansion occurred despite flat population growth and a (current) record-low unemployment rate,” the IFO noted.

The number of people getting benefits have grown consistently since 2019. Then, 1.75 million Pemnnsylvanians received SNAP benefits; in 2023, more than 2 million did. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate peaked at 7.9% in 2020 and was 3.4% in 2023 — lower than it was in 2019.

The growth came from state and federal policy changes. In 2022, the state expanded eligibility from 165% above the federal poverty line to 200%, and in 2023, certain college students qualified too, the IFO noted. But most of the boost came from a 2022 change by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to its Thrifty Food Plan, sparking a “significant increase in the maximum monthly benefit.”

As SNAP benefits went up, the General Assembly took steps to stop benefits going to dead recipients; after a bill passed in the Senate, though, it stalled in the House. The problem has grabbed attention for years since a 2016 audit noted that more than 2,000 accounts received state benefits after death.

During the expansion, then-Governor Tom Wolf said the action “allows us to extend a reprieve to people who may be struggling.”

The expansion, however, also created a “benefits cliff” where a wage increase could lead to a person losing their benefits. Previously, an increase would cause a less-dramatic phase-out.

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