RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's state of emergency is set to expire at the end of June, which means there will be some changes to programs that have helped Virginia families struggling to make ends meet.
Since the pandemic, the federal government has allowed those relying SNAP benefits -- or food stamps -- to receive the maximum amount of $535 dollars a month to help cover food costs.
But starting in August, Virginians receiving SNAP will return to their regular amount, which Salaam Bhatti, public benefits attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said is typically only enough to cover two weeks worth of groceries.
"It's a very low amount," Bhatti explained. "The federal government is looking into changing the calculation, so that people perhaps do get more benefits. But that's just neither here nor there for families who need help putting food on the table."
The extra benefits were set to expire in July, but the federal government provided a waiver month for Virginia.
Now, the Virginia Poverty Law Center is working to get Virginia's program extended through September -- which is when the federal program is set to expire.
“We're gonna work with Department of Social Services and with the governor to see if we can advocate for an alternative declaration, which several other states have successfully done, so that our families and our neighbors can receive the maximum benefits, especially during the summer, when kids are at home from school and there are extra mouths to feed," Bhatti explained.
There are currently more than 761,000 Virginians relying on SNAP benefits, compared to around 680,000 before the pandemic.
The Virginia Poverty Law Center is encouraging Virginians to save as much of their SNAP benefits as they can these next two months since they can be carried over month-to-month.
Beginning July 1, Virginia’s eligibility requirements for SNAP benefits are also expanding, meaning more Virginians will be able to access this money to buy food.
"I think people should keep in mind that they shouldn't let their pride or their ego get in the way of applying for SNAP or food stamp benefits," Bhatti noted. "You've paid into it through your taxes to create some type of safety net to help yourself and your neighbors. And so when you need it, you should use it."