By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Some Alabamians enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called SNAP and formerly referred to as food stamps, will be getting additional funds today as part of a federal response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Current SNAP recipients will receive a supplement in their accounts (today) that will take their March benefits to the monthly maximum for family size regardless of income,” Barry Spear, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Human Resources, told Alabama Daily News. “Families already receiving the monthly maximum benefit will not receive the supplement.”
Usually, the amount of food assistance a household receives depends on the number of people in the household and the amount of their net income.
Removing the income factor, a household of four will receive for March the maximum of $646. If a family of four received $450 in the month of March because of income qualifications, it will receive an additional $196 dollars today and also on April 30, Spear said.
“A supplement will also be received at the end of April as part of Washington’s response to the COVID-19 virus,” Spear said. Benefits are good for up to a year so there is no need for SNAP recipients to rush out to spend this supplement, he said.
As of January, 705,542 Alabamians received SNAP benefits.
On social media recently, there have been calls for people to refrain from grocery shopping in the first few days of the month in order to make room for people using assistance who get their benefits on the first of the month. But Carol Gundlach, a policy analyst for the advocacy group Alabama Arise, said Alabama and many other states spread out over the month the distribution of benefits. Otherwise, grocers could see shortages at the beginning of a month, even without a public health crisis.
Gundlach did have a request for shoppers now.
“I do put in a plea not to hoard WIC items,” she said.
The Women, Infants and Children program is a supplemental nutrition program for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, women who had a baby within the last six months, infants, and children under the age of 5. It’s managed by the Alabama Department of Public Health and has income requirements too. The program has a specific list of what can be purchased. For example, Gundlach said, recipients can buy whole grain Cheerios, but not the sweetened Honey Nut Cheerios. Wheat bread is allowed, white bread is not. Items are marked on grocery store shelves as being “WIC” items.
“Read those little labels,” she said. “And the main message is, be nice and don’t hoard.”