DENVER (KDVR) — In exactly one week, emergency SNAP benefits will be ending in Colorado. The state Department of Human Services calculates all households will see at least a $95 decrease a month in benefits, and a family of four can expect a $360 decrease.
As FOX31 found out, the department is receiving so many calls, they’ve launched a special call center in response.
The emergency benefits were directly tied to the nation’s public health emergency due to the pandemic. A federal bill ended the temporary allotments in December and the change will go into effect next week, on Wednesday, March 1.
SNAP changes spark anxiety in Colorado
From the beginning, the allotment was temporary and was meant to eventually expire, but families dependent on the extra boost will be feeling the brunt of the impact.
Whether groceries, gas or the cost of living, just about everything is more expensive these days. The emergency benefits have eased some of the stress for Coloradans, like Kaycee Yagovane.
“It’s been lifesaving,” Yagovane said. “I’ve been able to actually fully eat every day.”
FOX31 interviewed Yagovane late last month. The SNAP recipient, balancing work and school, expressed concern and disappointment as the expiration deadline drew near.
“I fear I’m going to go hungry,” she shared.
That fear is one many Coloradans can relate to right, now and it’s created some panic that frontline workers are witnessing first-hand. Karla Maraccini, division director for food and energy assistance programs at Colorado’s Department of Human Services, said call volumes at state and county offices have skyrocketed with recipients asking for help and information.
“We’re seeing a lot of anxiety, a lot of folks are nervous about how they are going to feed their families and how they are going to make rent,” Maraccini said.
SNAP benefit call center activated
With phone lines ringing off the hook, the department has implemented a special interactive voice response call center to help manage and answer questions.
“This call system will be able to tell households exactly what their benefit amount will be in March and what day they will receive it, so that they can plan for that,” Maraccini explained.
SNAP serves roughly 290,000 households and 554,000 individuals in Colorado. Although the department has been preparing for the temporary allotment to end, it’s still a challenge for recipients.
“This is a significant amount,” Maraccini said. “This is $55 million per month in Colorado, so families are going to be struggling.”
She added that the termination of the emergency benefits is expected to have a domino effect in the coming months. Maraccini expects there to be a significant need for assistance at food banks and food pantries across the state as families flock to find other resources.
Maraccini also said the response to ending the extra boost in benefits may pose the federal question of whether the emergency allotments should be here to stay.
If you need SNAP assistance, call 1-800-816-4451. Recipients can also call their local county office of human services and ask questions to see if they qualify for other assistance programs. Also, recipients are reminded to go online and check their PEAK accounts.