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'What it does for families is just incredible' | Extra food benefits to end for SC residents

The end of South Carolina's state of emergency means the end of added benefits, including food assistance.

SOUTH CAROLINA, USA — Governor Henry McMaster recently ended South Carolina's state of emergency due to COVID-19. McMaster said it was no longer necessary as cases of the virus decline, but the end of South Carolina's state of emergency means the end of added benefits, including food assistance.

"What it does for families is just incredible, it just does not make sense for it to be eliminated," Sue Berkowitz, Director of South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center said.

The pandemic made it easier to get and keep food benefits but starting in August, due to Governor McMaster's decision not to extend the state's state of emergency, South Carolina families will no longer get extra food assistance.

Social and economic advocates said it's too soon to cut funding. 

"There is still an economic hardship, a lot of folks aren't able to go back to work at the number of hours they worked before," Berkowitz said.

Federal policy requires that the national public health emergency declaration and a state-issued emergency/disaster declaration must both be in place to qualify for Emergency SNAP Allotments," DSS State Director, Michael Leach said in a statement. "South Carolina has been authorized to issue Emergency SNAP Allotments for June under the previous state of emergency. We will request to issue Emergency Allotments for July as the state’s “transition” month. Beginning August 1st, SNAP households will go back to receiving their regular monthly benefit amount." 

According to DSS, approximately 295,000 households, representing 610,000 clients, are currently receiving SNAP in South Carolina. Once the federal support stops, those recipients will lose an average of $177 a month. 

“The governor’s decision to end the state of emergency was thoughtfully considered and discussed among all state agencies that have had a role in the state’s response to the pandemic," communications director for Governor Henry McMaster, Brian Symmes said in a statement. "Like federal unemployment benefits the additional, emergency SNAP benefits program was never meant to be a permanent fixture. The governor is confident that the normal, pre-pandemic SNAP program is the best way to move forward for South Carolina.”

"DHEC is continuing to focus on food insecurities that were here prior to the pandemic and during the pandemic, we recognize that getting a healthy nutritious diet is key to people's health and wellbeing," director of public health for SCDHEC Dr. Brannon Traxler said. 

Berkowitz says they are pushing to keep emergency food relief stating, states like Alaska and Wisconsin ended their state of emergency but were still apply to apply for federal funding.

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