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Snap Participants in D.c. Will Receive a Brief Boost in February, the City Reports

Bylima

Jan 13, 2024
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Beginning in late February, families in D.C. receiving food assistance will see a temporary increase in their benefits, the District’s Department of Human Services announced on Friday.

The announcement puts an end to a weeks-long dispute between the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s (D) administration over whether the city would expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) locally from this month to September. The dispute stemmed from a nearly $40 million budget provision that the council passed last year. About 83,000 households will benefit from the supplementary local benefit, which can be up to 10% of a family’s federal maximum monthly allotment depending on household size, according to a statement from DHS.

On February 17, DHS will mail SNAP households a notice about the new temporary benefit. Retroactive supplemental payments for January and February’s SNAP benefits will be made by D.C. on February 23 and will be deposited straight onto each customer’s current EBT card. According to the news release, starting on March 1, the additional benefit will be combined with regular SNAP payments.

The temporary increase does not require SNAP recipients to submit a separate application; however, the benefit “may be reduced in September if funds run short” due to the program’s limited funding and SNAP’s variable caseload, according to the statement.

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The fact that we now know the exact dates on which residents will receive their benefits is a relief, as stated by LaMonika Jones, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions, one of the numerous advocacy organizations that worked to have the benefit increased.

The 10 percent increase in SNAP was subject to surplus funds that the city’s chief financial officer estimated would be available in the fall. However, DHS and Bowser’s administration declared a few weeks later that the temporary increase was unfeasible, citing the agency’s already tight budget and its burdensome task of running already-existing social services programs that have seen an increase in demand.

However, the administration reversed course last week in response to a threat of legal action from a local nonprofit against DHS for refusing to execute the increase. The prior day, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) proposed a resolution granting the council the authority to file lawsuits or lend support to other SNAP-related legal actions.

Mendelson withdrew the resolution on Tuesday before the council’s legislative session, informing colleagues that, although he wanted to give the council options, he did not believe it would be wise to move forward with the resolution immediately after receiving the mayor’s commitment.

At a breakfast with members on Tuesday, Mendelson stated, “I think people on the outside taking from this that we’re still going to sue the mayor is not a great perspective.” She added that the mayor had made it “quite clear that she considered it an affront” if the council proceeded with the resolution.

He claimed that the DHS announcement on Friday provided the answer to his primary concern, which was not whether or not the administration would move forward with the SNAP enhancement.

Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large) previously stated that in November, Bowser’s administration had suggested paying the administrative costs for Summer EBT, a federal program that gives families with school-aged children $40 per child per month over three months, rather than temporarily raising SNAP as a trade-off.

Henderson stated in an interview on Friday that although the city fulfilled the deadline of January 1 to file a notice of intent to run the Summer EBT program, Bowser’s administration is now planning to start that program in 2025 as a result of expanding SNAP.

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A request for comment from a Bowser representative was not immediately answered.

Henderson, whose unfunded 2022 bill to create a local SNAP supplement inspired the temporary boost passed by the council last year, noted that Summer EBT would require residents to take additional steps like applying for a new benefits card, potentially straining DHS further.

Henderson stated that there was never a plan to set SNAP and Summer EBT against one another. However, the latter program would have added another challenge for DHS, requiring the agency to find an extra $2 million to implement it. Families in D.C. are still able to participate in the current local summer meal program for students.

By lima

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