July 1, 2021

Food Insecurity: An Unintended Consequence of Florida's Emergency Declaration Expiring

Florida no longer has a COVID-19 emergency declaration in place. Both of the state’s emergency declarations for the pandemic expired the weekend of June 26-27 with little fanfare.

There are 1.83 million households in Florida who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to put food on the table. Congress has been allowing states to provide Emergency SNAP Allotments (EA) during the pandemic to bring a family’s benefits up to the maximum for a household of their size. However, this is only in the event there is both a federal and state COVID-related emergency declaration in place. For example, for a household of two, Floridians get anywhere from between $19 and $430 in SNAP, depending on their income and expenses without EA. But, thanks to EA, two-person households in Florida automatically get $430, the maximum SNAP for their household size, so long as Florida has its own COVID emergency declaration.

In terms of who gets hurt the most by pulling the plug on EA, in Florida, more than 60 percent of families participating in SNAP have children, 47 percent contain seniors or people who have a disability, and 39 percent are working.

In June 2021, more than 1.7 million households in the state received more than $286 million in  EA benefits  alone. This influx of aid has helped  not only  families, but also the local communities where they buy groceries, many of which are still reeling from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.   

Also, it’s not as if COVID-19 is ancient history, especially with spread of the Delta variant. In the past week alone, roughly 12,000 Floridians tested positive for COVID-19.

Losing Florida’s state-issued emergency declaration will put an end to EA and most of the additional SNAP benefits that have been authorized for Floridians because of the pandemic. Only the extra 15 percent that Congress has added on to everyone’s SNAP benefits will continue, at least through September.  That’s because this 15 percent is mandated by Congress and is not a state option or contingent on Florida’s emergency declaration.

EA has gone a long way to help address hunger caused or exacerbated by the financial impact of the pandemic. In a survey of Florida households conducted by the Census Bureau from May 12, 2021, through June 7, 2021, 13 percent of adults living with children reported that their kids were not eating enough because the household could not afford food. Fifteen percent of renters said that they were not caught up on rent, and 27 percent reported that they were having trouble paying for their household’s usual expenses.

Governor DeSantis should renew the COVID-19 emergency declaration for Florida. Floridians are still stretched thin and need the extra benefits.

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