Hoosier families will be cut off from enhanced federal food aid April 16 under a new law signed Thursday by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 10% of Indiana households have received emergency allotments amounting to approximately $90 a month on top of their usual food assistance provided through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

The emergency allotments, along with SNAP, are fully funded by the federal government. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration merely administers the distribution of SNAP benefits to Hoosiers earning less than 130% of the federal poverty level, or $34,452 for a family of four, who also must have less than $5,000 in assets, excluding a residence.

Under federal law, the emergency SNAP allotments currently are due to continue until June 30. The extra food aid also could be extended through September if the federal COVID-19 emergency is renewed in early April.

However, none of that federal money will be spent at Indiana grocery stores because House Enrolled Act 1001 cuts off emergency SNAP allotments to Indiana families next month — regardless of how long the federal government continues the program.

The enhanced SNAP cutoff is the only hard deadline in the new state law that otherwise permits Indiana to continue receiving other federal COVID-19 relief for as long as the extra assistance is provided by the federal government.

It was added to the measure by state Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, and adopted by the Republican-controlled Senate on an unrecorded voice vote, after a similar provision in Senate Bill 3 failed to advance in the Republican-controlled House.

State Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, said eliminating the enhanced SNAP benefit will show the federal government Indiana doesn't support its reckless deficit spending and inflationary monetary policies.

"If we continue down this road that $90 won't mean anything to our poor citizens," Young said. "I can't even buy bacon anymore because it's $10.99 a pound.

"I hope everybody calls their congressman and their senators and says: 'Quit spending money we don't have and let's end this inflation that's destroying the lives of a lot of our citizens.'"

On the other hand, state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said there's no question many of Indiana's working poor still need food assistance, and it makes no sense to turn away extra SNAP benefits when it costs the state nothing and will help Hoosier families.

"Many of us are riding by our food banks and we're still seeing long lines," Melton said. "I know I do when I'm riding through Merrillville, Indiana, by the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana and there's a long line from 61st Avenue going two or three blocks ... which is a clear indication that these services are needed."

The governor said he signed the SNAP emergency allotment cutoff into law because "we're nearing a time where we can move back to a more normal formula."

"This is in addition to, not less than previous," Holcomb said. "So we're moving back, as we transition from pandemic to endemic, back to those normal times."

That claim failed to resonate with Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana's Hungry. She said the early cutoff will deny needed aid to Hoosier families and take tens of millions of dollars out of the cash registers of Indiana grocery stores.

"Now is not the time to roll back this important program to help Hoosier families access food. Hoosiers are still being squeezed from all sides," she said. "Inflation, particularly in food, gas, rent, plus utilities and other costs are greatly impacting Hoosiers and our food banks."

Jessica Fraser, director of the Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute, said even as the pandemic winds down, the Hoosier families who were struggling before COVID-19 remain financially vulnerable.

"SNAP emergency allotments, coupled with other recovery efforts, kept our most vulnerable families from the brink of financial disaster," Fraser said. "Cutting off support too soon will only make matters worse."
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