SALT LAKE CITY — After years of federal pandemic funds helping families afford food and rent, those emergency assistance programs are coming to an end in Utah.
Due to the omnibus bill recently passed by Congress, the state must stop the additional SNAP emergency allotment in February.
Local food organizations always knew this time would come, but they fear for the families forced to now be self-sufficient in the current economy.
“The pandemic has been really rough on low-income working households,” said Gina Cornia with Utahns Against Hunger. “This just going to exacerbate it.”
The decision affects the 74,000 Utah households enrolled in the SNAP program. Participants were receiving an average additional $175-200 at the end of every month since May 2020.
“Those families who had been independent on that extra money from their SNAP benefits are now probably going to end up on the front door of their local food pantry,” Cornia said.
The Emergency Rental Assistant Program will be accepting its final applications Feb. 5.
Utah originally received $344 million in federal rental assistance funds under the American Rescue Plan. The Utah Department of Workforce Services said it only has around $30 million left.
Since the program launched in March 2021, the department has processed 97,000 applications and paid $287 million to help Utahns with rent and utilities.
Tara Rollins with the Utah Housing Coalition said affordable rent was already an issue before the pandemic. She wonders what will happen to participants who lose the funds.
“People were unstable, paying more than 50% of their income to housing. A lot of people. Seventy percent. So that does not allow for stability,” Rollins said.
“This was specifically a response for the pandemic and ideally to help people stay in their homes during the pandemic,” said Nate McDonald, deputy director of the Department of Workforce Services.
The federal funds are expected to run out by the end of March. All applications submitted by Feb. 5 will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis until funding runs out or all completed applications are processed.