Lisa Franklin’s SNAP benefits will drop from $256 per month to $23 in March, when the emergency allotments that were put into place during the pandemic will end. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Over the past couple of years, Lisa Franklin got used to stretching her monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits so she could buy what she needs and avoid the food pantry.

She knows that will change next month when her benefits drop from $256 to just $23.

The pandemic-era boost in SNAP benefits ends this month and is expected to result in a steep drop-off for many Mainers who rely on the program to feed themselves and their families. 

The extra allotments, known as emergency maximum assistance, were authorized by Congress on a temporary basis to help low-income individuals and families deal with the hardships of the pandemic. That money was critical for people in Maine, hunger prevention advocates say, and the loss will be difficult at a time when households are facing higher food, heating and housing costs.

The amount recipients will lose varies, but is expected to average $132 for one-person households nationwide, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute.

In Maine, where about 100,000 households receive SNAP benefits, that average jumps to $190, said Alex Carter, a policy advocate with Maine Equal Justice, an Augusta-based nonprofit civil legal aid and economic justice organization. Every recipient will see a reduction of at least $95 a month.


“There’s a lot of fear about what this means for people who are already struggling with food insecurity,” Carter said. “Now is not the time to cut essential supports that have been shown to reduce hunger and keep people out of poverty.”

Franklin, 50, is on disability and has a monthly income of about $1,300. She already knows she’ll have to again rely on the food pantries near her home in Portland and on food boxes from Preble Street.

“I’m going to have to utilize a lot more of the resources that are out there,” she said. “It scares me.”

The emergency allotments kept 4.2 million people above the poverty line in the last quarter of 2021. They reduced poverty rates by 10% and child poverty by 14%, according to a study by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonpartisan research organization.

For some recipients, it allowed them to buy all the groceries they needed for the first time and rely less on the charitable food system.

“For quite a while during the pandemic, pantries across the state noticed that folk who received SNAP didn’t come to the pantries as often or not at all,” said Amy Regan Gallant, vice president of policy and research at Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We absolutely expect that to increase over the coming months as SNAP benefits decrease.”



SNAP helps feed more than 42 million people – one in eight Americans – each month. Experts say the evidence is clear that the program increases food security, particularly among households with children that were disproportionately impacted by hunger during the pandemic.

Maine has the highest rate of childhood hunger in New England, with one in six children experiencing food insecurity, according to Feeding America.

The emergency allotment is going away, the USDA’s pandemic EBT program expires at the end of the summer and expanded child tax credits have ended, all at a time when the cost of everything is skyrocketing, said Anna Korsen, advocacy and implementation director for Full Plates Full Potential.

“Families are experiencing this real challenging time right now where a lot of supports that were put in place to help them feed their kids and actually be able to have enough for their grocery budgets is all going away,” Korsen said. “It’s a dire situation.”

Devon Stockmayer, who works in advocacy at Preble Street and leads the Maine Hunger Initiative, said the increased benefits gave recipients a level of independence and stability they’d never had before. Now they’re trying to prepare clients for what’s to come.


“The loss is so stark,” she said. “There are a lot of really strong resources that are the safety net for food security, but it’s unfortunate because there shouldn’t need to be that significant of a safety net.”

Clients are already worried about their reduction in benefits, Stockmayer said. Preble Street is looking at increasing the number of meals it distributes through its food hub in South Portland and giving out more food boxes. Those boxes, distributed through caseworkers and DoorDash, include fresh produce and shelf-stable food.

“There’s a lot of anxiety in the community about how to meet the need,” Stockmayer said.

Good Shepherd Food Bank is anticipating higher demand across the state’s network of 600 food pantries and meal programs. Many of those had seen a dip in clients, but people had already started to come back in larger numbers as food prices rose.

Gallant also expects grocery stores that take in a significant amount of revenue through SNAP spending to be impacted by the cuts. While the emergency allotment was in place, an extra $17 million a month was coming into Maine and being spent on food at stores, she said.

“It’s going to impact a lot of people across the state,” she said.



The Maine Department of Health and Human Services notified recipients of the change in January, but hunger prevention advocates worry that many people still may be caught off guard.

Franklin, the Portland SNAP recipient, first heard of the change in January and has tried to help get the word out to others who will be impacted.

With her monthly SNAP benefits decreasing from $256 to $23 in March, Lisa Franklin knows the days of deciding what she feels like having for dinner are probably over, replaced by a “this is what we’re going to have situation.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Franklin has been thinking about the adjustments she’ll make and the resources she’ll need to make sure she has enough food, a process she’s familiar with because she was homeless for a year and is connected to Preble Street through Maine Voices for Justice.

“I’ve been thinking about it and worrying about it, but honestly this past week I’ve been thinking that it’s really coming,” she said. “I need to get my ducks in a row.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Office for Family Independence has provided recipients with information about their base benefits and the amount of the temporary increase. That office is now proactively communicating with people about the change and providing information about additional support available when the emergency allotment ends, DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said.


Maine Equal Justice has been trying to get the word out for people who may have missed the DHHS notice or aren’t aware of how they will be impacted. The organization also has been encouraging SNAP recipients to update information about their income, housing and utility costs to make sure they’re receiving all of the benefits they qualify for.

Franklin plans to get more storage containers so she has more flexibility to prepare and store the fresh food she’ll receive from the food pantry. If she gets apples, she’ll make applesauce. She knows she can use potatoes in dishes that she can freeze. But the days of deciding what she feels like having for dinner are probably over, replaced by a “this is what we’re going to have situation,” she said.

She worries most about SNAP recipients who don’t have access to the same tools and skills she does. Some people don’t know how to use some of the donated food or don’t have access to a kitchen to prepare it in. Others don’t have any way to store refrigerated or frozen food.

“It’s going to be very difficult for people who can’t prepare their own meals,” she said.

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