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More Americans struggling to put food on the table after federal benefits end

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
More Americans are struggling to put food on their tables after federal benefits ended last week. (Reuters photo)

More Americans are finding it hard to put food on their tables after the federal government ended its enhanced unemployment and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments last week.

The funding was essential for millions of Americans as they were trying to ride out the Covid-19 pandemic and the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Experts are saying that there will be a dramatic increase in SNAP applications as many people continue to struggle more than anticipated.

Nearly 11 million people were receiving $600 per week in unemployment benefits, according to the UK's economic research firm Oxford Economics.

However, following the cutoff, around 8.9 million people will not be able to receive any more unemployment benefits while another 2.1 million had their benefits cut by $300 a week.

Pandemic-related SNAP benefits will also expire by Sept. 30. Since December, SNAP recipients have been receiving a 15% rise, nearly $27 on top of an emergency allotment that gave households $95 a month.

Now that Congress has no plans to pass more relief measures, it is predicted that the need for charitable support will outpace last year's demand.

"We know that developing a comprehensive national safety net involves reassessing and strengthening existing social support programs," said Hossein Ayazi, a public policy analyst at the University of California, Berkeley's Othering and Belonging Institute. "Yet it also involves not ending the programs we have when we know there is still great need for them."

The historic stimulus packages enacted by Congress earlier this year helped millions of Americans pay for food, back utilities and rent, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One in four American workers was dependent on unemployment aid during the outbreak of the Covid, shows a report by the Century Foundation, a think tank in New York.

The administration of President Joe Biden approved a permanent SNAP rise in August – on average, around $11 more per person, per month shortly before the benefits were cut off.

Experts said, however, that more needs to be done to compensate for the cutoff of other benefits.

This summer only, over 35 million people said they were food insecure. Eleven million could not afford to eat at least once in the last week, according to an August survey carried out by the US Census Bureau.

The problem is worse for Black and Latino Americans who were more than twice as likely as white adults to report they did not have enough to eat, shows an analysis by the Center for Budget and Priorities.

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