CHICAGO (WLS) -- A financial lifeline for families across the Chicago area is now cut short. The federal government has ended emergency SNAP benefits that began at the start of the pandemic.
The average person receiving SNAP benefits will see a reduction of about $95 a month, while large families will see cuts closer to $250 a month.
Local food banks have been gearing up for this day as people across our area scramble to put food on the table.
Dozens of people waited outside a food pantry in the Back of the Yards neighborhood after waking up to a portion of their SNAP benefits slashed.
"It made me sick to my stomach," said Pamela Andrejevic.
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Andrejevic said she's been getting an additional $95 in food benefits since spring 2020. Now, those extra funds are gone.
"It's devastating and I don't know what I'm going to do," she said. "These are people who need SNAP benefits. We are in dire straits. We don't eat without these SNAP benefits."
She is among millions of people across the country who are trying to figure out how they can stretch the benefits they do have.
With grocery prices at record highs, many people are panicking.
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"It will really severely impact many households," Andrejevic said.
Man-Yee Lee, with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said the people they serve are extremely concerned.
"This is going to increase the rate of food insecurity in the city of Chicago and Cook County," Lee said. "Currently, one in five households in the Chicago metro area are facing food insecurity."
Organizations, like the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said their food bank partners are gearing up for big crowds, making sure they have an abundance of grocery items on their shelves to help meet the increased need.
It's assistance that many of these folks wish they didn't need but currently can't live without.
"If I could work, I wouldn't ask the government for a dime. Unfortunately, I'm disabled, and I depend on this," Andrejevic said.
It's clear many people in our area need those additional SNAP benefits, especially with grocery prices through the roof.
Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Jonathan Jackson are both on agriculture committees.
"SNAP benefits are a lifeline to the nearly two million Illinois residents who receive this food assistance. The ending of the temporary boost to SNAP is a stark message to my Republican colleagues that Congress must ensure SNAP benefits meet the needs of families struggling to put food on the table. The Biden Administration recently updated SNAP with a 21 percent increase for the first time since 2006, but Republicans say that was wrong, and are already calling for SNAP cuts in the upcoming Farm Bill, which is a non-starter. As we transition away from the important tools provided during the pandemic, I'll continue to work as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and with our food banks and community partners to make sure these important food security programs remain strong." Durbin said in a statement.
"As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, I am deeply concerned about the challenges families may face with the end of COVID SNAP benefits. We must continue to support families who are struggling with food insecurity. According to a recent study, the Emergency Allotments kept 4.2 million people above the poverty line in the last quarter of 2021. No one should have to go hungry; that's why I'm committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that families have access to the resources they need to put food on the table," Jackson said.
In a statement, the Illinois Department of Human Services said:
"IDHS has been communicating with claimants for months to ensure they are prepared and can access all resources available in advance of this federal policy change to end the emergency SNAP increases. While many states chose to unilaterally decrease SNAP benefits for their residents, Illinois is one of 32 states that ensured the enhanced SNAP benefits remained in place for as long as possible. Building on the administration's commitment to serve those most in need, Governor Pritzker's proposed budget includes substantial investments in programs that serve families receiving SNAP benefits, including increases for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and efforts to eliminate food deserts."
Local Food Resources:
City of Chicago Hotline: Call 2-1-1
Greater Chicago Food Depository: https://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/find-food/#find-food
Northern Illinois Food Bank: https://solvehungertoday.org/
Beyond Hunger: https://www.gobeyondhunger.org/
Chicago Food Policy Action Council: https://www.chicagofoodpolicy.com/
SNAP households are also encouraged to visit Go.illinois.edu/findfood to find additional resources to ensure they receive the food they need.