OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A federal program to help SNAP recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to an end in February.

SNAP max benefits were created in 2020 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recipients got a second payment towards the end of each month.

Deborah Smith, Director of Adult and Family Services at DHS, said the second payment was typically $95.

The department reported that in Fiscal Year 2022, 408,000 families, including 855,000 individuals were on SNAP.

But with this new change, Smith said some Oklahomans could be impacted more than others.

“In particular, older Oklahomans, I think, could see some of the biggest decreases based on what their previous amounts were,” said Smith.

The end of the benefits came with the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.

Instead of extra SNAP benefits, the money will be transferred to pay for a permanent summer lunch program for kids.

Chris Bernard, CEO of Hunger Free Oklahoma, said the lunch program is great news but it is not a replacement for the SNAP max.

“It’s going to be a challenge, especially the first few months for those families to figure out how to budget,” said Bernard, speaking about the families on SNAP.

Hunger Free Oklahoma is a nonprofit that works to connect people with federal nutrition programs.

The CEO said local organizations that help provide resources to families will need help more than ever now that the SNAP emergency benefit is over.

“Our charitable partners will have a lot more pressure on them,” said Bernard. “Food banks and food pantries will see either more people showing up to their lines or the same people showing up more frequently.”

The organization runs a program called Double Up Oklahoma.

It partners with 12 grocery stores and 17 farmers markets across the state.

Double Up Oklahoma matches dollar for dollar, up to $20 per day, on purchases of fresh produce.

After two years of the additional SNAP benefits, the sudden end to the monthly payments could have an impact on local stores, said Bernard.

“They’ve been going now for two years, that’s been huge, not only for those people but for local economies,” said the nonprofit CEO. “So millions of dollars flowing into local grocery stores.”

He argued that the end of the temporary benefits will highlight the need for something permanent.

“This time is an interesting opportunity for all of us to consider whether SNAP benefits are really adequate for folks who are in poverty,” said Bernard. “And, you know, as somebody who works on this every day, I can tell you they’re not.”