March 8, 2023
This month, an extra amount of Federal food support that was provided during the COVID-19 pandemic will end in Maine and other states. The extra amounts, known as Emergency Maximum Allotments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), were funded by Congress and the President in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. A recent Federal law directed that the extra benefits end in March, returning benefits to normal levels. The law also created a permanent summer SNAP program for families with children (PDF) when school is out, which the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) intends to provide, with federal approval. DHHS will also continue to use existing SNAP waivers and options to keep as many people enrolled as possible after the flexibilities of the federal public health emergency end.
Below are answers to questions about this change to SNAP benefits and where Maine residents who need food assistance can find help.
Who received this extra food assistance? All individuals and families receiving SNAP benefits also received an add-on or extra amount automatically in their monthly Federally-funded SNAP benefit from March 2020 to February 2023. In February 2023, 174,344 individuals in about 100,000 Maine households received SNAP benefits.
How much extra did they receive? As with regular SNAP benefits, the amount individuals and households received depends on family size and income. At a minimum, all those getting the extra amount will experience a $95 monthly decrease in March. In Maine, the average extra amount per person was $109 in 2022.
Will all SNAP benefits end in March? No, only the extra COVID-19 amount will end. The normal SNAP monthly benefits will continue. To make sure participants are receiving the support for which they qualify, they should update their information by logging on to My Maine Connection or calling 1 (855) 797-4357.
Will the amount that Maine SNAP participants receive in March be the same as it was three years ago when the pandemic began? No. Non-emergency SNAP benefits are higher now than they were before the pandemic due to permanent Federal changes. Total monthly funding for all participants in Maine has increased from about $17 million per month in February 2020 to $28 million in March 2023.
Can people receiving SNAP appeal this change? No. The Federal funding is ending in March and the State cannot change that. However, individuals may appeal if they believe the base benefit calculation is incorrect.
Do SNAP participants know this change is coming? Throughout the pandemic, the DHHS Office for Family Independence (OFI) provided recipients with information about their base benefit and the extra amount. OFI issued one-time notices in January alerting recipients about the upcoming end of the extra amount payments. SNAP recipients can get information about their base benefit amount by logging on to My Maine Connection or calling 1 (855) 797-4357. DHHS has also worked with community partners on their education efforts about this change.
What can Mainers do if they’re worried about losing this extra amount? There are several options available to Mainers who need extra assistance with food:
- Nutrition Services Program: Eligible older adults can receive congregate and home-delivered meal options through Maine’s five Area Agencies on Aging. The Governor’s biennial budget proposes over $6 million in General Funds which, coupled with Federal funds, will support one million home-delivered meals per year.
- Free School Meals: All Maine children have access to free meals in the School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs thanks to State of Maine funding. The Governor’s biennial budget proposes $58 million in funding to continue this program.
- WIC Nutrition Program: Additional support for food and formula through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program is available to eligible Maine people who are pregnant or have recently given birth, people who are breastfeeding, and infants and children up to age five. Maine families currently receiving SNAP benefits are automatically eligible for WIC. Information about eligibility and how to apply for WIC benefits is available on this website.
- Workers Supplement Benefit: Working SNAP families with children under age 18 in the home will automatically continue to receive $100 per month for food through July 2023, in addition to their base SNAP benefits. This is funded through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
- General Assistance: Maine people may be eligible for General Assistance funds to help pay for food from their local municipal office. Those who are unable to reach their local General Assistance office or have questions can call DHHS’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-442-6003.
- Harvest Bucks: Maine residents receiving SNAP benefits may qualify for extra financial help or “bonus bucks” when buying food at over 50 farmers’ markets, farm stands, and cooperatives. The Governor’s biennial budget proposes $1.2 million to provide support for this program.
- Food Pantries or Food Banks: Emergency food assistance programs are available in all Maine counties and can be found online through this list or by calling 211. The Governor’s biennial budget proposes $2 million to continue support for the Mainers Feeding Mainers program to supplement Federal funding for these programs.