420,000 more Pennsylvanians will be eligible for food aid starting Saturday | WITF

  • Kate Giammarise / WESA

This May 3, 2017, photo shows a fruit display at a Whole Foods grocery store in Upper Saint Clair, Pennsylvania.

Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

This May 3, 2017, photo shows a fruit display at a Whole Foods grocery store in Upper Saint Clair, Pennsylvania.

Donna Strejcek works full-time in medical billing from her home in Pitcairn, where she is also raising her teenage grandson. The inflation-linked cost of food recently prompted her to enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

“A lot of people, a lot of people are really struggling. Me included,” she said.

Food costs for her are “simply unreal. The price of food is unreal,” she said.

Until recently, she would have earned too much to qualify for the benefit, but starting Saturday, an additional 420,000 Pennsylvanians will be eligible for food assistance.

Strajcek is exactly the type of family targeted by the expansion of assistance.

“I find it difficult to switch between paychecks,” she said. “I mean, I don’t earn a bad salary. It was habitable, say, a few years ago. I didn’t have a problem with the food. And now I find myself between groceries and utilities, I just can’t switch between payrolls. I’m running out of supplies. »

State social services officials are changing the income threshold to qualify for the SNAP program from 160 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to 200 percent, or about $4,626 a month for a family of four.

“Expanding SNAP eligibility allows us to extend a reprieve to people who may be struggling so we can help more Pennsylvanians meet this most basic need that literally fuels us to live, work, grow. and thrive,” said the executive assistant of the Pennsylvania Department of Social Services. Secretary Andrew Barnes said in a statement announcing the change earlier this month.

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Benefits are funded by the federal government, but the program is administered by the states.

Newly eligible households will receive an average of $63 in assistance per month.

Additionally, households will also receive additional assistance while the federal Covid-related public health emergency declaration is in place.

More than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians are enrolled in the program. According to state statistics, statewide SNAP enrollment is about 8% higher than it was before the pandemic began.

“With the toll of the pandemic and inflation, we get calls every day from people who are in low-wage jobs, or who are elderly or disabled and on fixed incomes. They have to make horrible choices about what they can spend their money on: housing or childcare, medicine or keeping the lights on. They limit what they eat because they can’t afford groceries,” Just Harvest, a Pittsburgh-based hunger advocacy organization, said in a statement. “We are therefore delighted that the Wolf administration’s social services department has found a way to help more households just above the poverty line qualify for assistance.”

To find out if you qualify for SNAP: www.compass.state.pa.us or call the Consumer Service Center at 1-866-550-4355.

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