The low income extra food resource authorized during the pandemic for many Otter Tail County residents is coming to an end.
Otter Tail County Human Services Director Deb Sjostrom said most households will get their last E-SNAP payment in March and commencing in April, most households will get only one SNAP payment. That amount will be the household’s standard monthly benefit.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps, is a county-run, federally funded program administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps low income individuals and families get the food they need for nutritious and well-balanced meals. The program provides support to help stretch a household food budget. It is not intended to meet all of your household's food needs. It is a supplement.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the state received funds from the federal government to temporarily provide extra SNAP benefits known as Emergency SNAP or E-SNAP.
E-SNAP was an extra allotment of SNAP benefits for households to help cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary increase boosted households’ monthly benefit to the maximum allotment for their household size or, if they were already getting the maximum amount, households received an additional $95 each month. This is ending after almost three years.
The federal government approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, providing funding for the federal fiscal year 2023. Within the bill, the federal government declared the E-SNAP program would end after February 2023.
Prior to E-SNAP, a household’s eligibility depended on standard factors, such as household size, income and deductions.
Sjostrom states that if a household’s income, costs or household membership has not changed, their SNAP benefits should be similar to the amount they got early each month before they received the additional E-SNAP benefit.
Those who had been eligible to receive the E-SNAP benefits just needed to be receiving some amount in SNAP benefits for the month to qualify for E-SNAP. Households that were suspended for the month were not eligible for that month’s E-SNAP.
In addition to the previous amount a prospective household would receive, the eligibility process will be returning to the standard way of determining SNAP eligibility or what would be considered the pre-pandemic determination process.
For instance, a family of four with two children must have a monthly income below $4,625 to qualify at pre-pandemic levels. The department states that income guidelines are updated each year. These guidelines are for Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2023.
According to DHS, “An individual or family does not have the right to a fair hearing because the ending of E-SNAP benefits is solely due to the change in federal law. However, DHS said families may request a fair hearing, orally or in writing, to dispute the current household’s level of benefits at any time as long as it is within a certification period.”
Something additional that SNAP recipients may not be aware of is that if they are currently enrolled in SNAP, they also qualify for a telephone discount through the Lifeline, also known as the Telephone Assistance Plan. The individual or family has to contact their local telephone company to apply for that benefit.
There are additional resources for those in need:
Minnesota Food Helpline provides help to people looking for food shelves, farmer’s markets, market bucks and food programs. Call 1-888-711-1151 or visit www.mnfoodhelpline.org.
MNFoodHelper.org helps people with applying and rectifying for SNAP benefits.
2-1-1 provides a variety of human services resources and information. Call 2-1-1 or visit 211unitedway.org for help with food resources, energy assistance, rent assistance, and more.
The Senior Nutrition Program provides people aged 60 or older and their spouses (even if they are under 60) with free dining sites and home-delivered meals. Call Senior LinkAge Line at 800-333-2433, TTY 800-627-3529.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The Otter Tail County Public Health Department’s WIC program is a health and nutrition program that provides a variety of healthy foods. WIC staff can answer nutrition and breastfeeding questions and refer families to other resources. Visit ottertailcountymn.us/wic/ or call 998-8320
Area Community Food Shelves
- Henning 218-583-2136
- NY Mills 218-632-3600
- Perham, Dent, Vergas, Ottertail 218-346-6181
- Battle Lake 218-864-0661
- Fergus Falls 218-739-2971
- Pelican Rapids 218-863-3663
A webpage has been set up to help determine monthly SNAP benefit amounts at mn.gov/dhs/people-we-serve/children-and-families/economic-assistance/food-nutrition/programs-and-services/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program.jsp.