(The Enterprise/file)

Hundreds of thousands of low-income Oregonians will continue to receive extra food aid for the next two months, the state Department of Human Services announced Tuesday.

The extra aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, increases the monthly allotment per household by 60% to more than $460. Nearly 378,000 households – or more than 663,000 individuals – in Oregon receive SNAP benefits. A majority qualify for the emergency allotments, according to Jake Sunderland, press secretary for the Human Services Department.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the SNAP program, has provided emergency food aid since March 2020. The agency alerts states about the extra money on a month-by-month basis, Sunderland said. The state just received word that the April benefits would come through, and that means May will follow, Sunderland said.

“Monthly approval comes with a promise we can have what the feds call a ‘buffer month,’” Sunderland said in an email. “So when we get approved for April, we at least know we can issue them in May.”

The emergency aid is tied to the federal health emergency, which has been renewed every three months since late January 2020. It is due to expire in April, but will likely be renewed for another three months after that, Oregon officials say. Federal officials have told them they will get ample notice before it ends. The declaration allows for extra funds to be sent to states, like increased SNAP benefits. 

The aid comes at a time of soaring food prices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the retail price of food has soared 8.6% in a year. But the number of Oregonians seeking SNAP benefits have dropped as the economy has opened up. In January 2021, about 426,000 households statewide received SNAP benefits. That dropped to nearly 378,000 this past January.

The emergency allotments will be added to SNAP cards on April 12. The benefits are available to individuals who earn up to $2,265 per month and households, with a ceiling of $3,052 a month for two people and $4,625 for a family of four. People can sign up for SNAP or other benefits at one.oregon.gov.

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