Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are returning to their pre-pandemic funding levels as the COVID-19 pandemic emergency funding ends, which will have a combined $18 million impact to Wood County.
Wood County Department of Job and Family Services administrators Laura Seifert and Rebeka Shiffert presented their program “The Return to Routine Operations of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid” to the Rotary Club of Bowling Green on Thursday.
SNAP supplements began in March 2020 through use of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which allowed emergency allotments for households. Seifert said that with the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 those allotments ended after February. The emergency allotments were additional amounts paid along with the normal SNAP benefit allotment.
“So this will be a big change, with the impact of the economy, as well as people not getting this additional assistance,” Seifert said. “When these notices first went out to people that this additional assistance was ending, it did prompt some phone calls. More of it was confusion, because they thought their regular benefits were ending too. We want to make it very clear, that is not the case. The regular benefit is not ending.”
Seifert said the economic impact of the dropping of the additional emergency funding for SNAP will be $15.6 million over the next year. The monthly combined SNAP benefit paid to Wood County recipients in January 2020 was $669,755 and for January 2023 that number was $1.9 million, for a difference of $1.2 million.
She pointed out that SNAP payments are reevaluated annually with the federal adjustment to the poverty level. This has meant that the base pre-pandemic level of benefits has increased each of the last three years and that level will continue.
SNAP recipients need to be under 130% of the poverty level. The payment level is based on the size of the household and level of some specific expenses, such as utilities, medical expenses and rent or mortgage.
Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the average SNAP payment was $220 per month. In 2022 the average was $485 per month.
“As you can see, it was a pretty significant increase,” Seifert said.
Last month, Wood County had 3,456 cases with 6,369 total recipients. Of those recipients there are 4,013 adults and 2,356 children. The total population of Wood County is 132,472, with about one in every 21 residents currently in receipt of some level of SNAP assistance.
The next payments would normally be added to the benefit card on March 24.
Seifert said that because SNAP is a federal program there are no fair hearing rights or fair hearing benefits regarding the ending of SNAP emergency allotments.
Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw asked if this has resulted in a lot of phone calls, or if they are expected.
“Not too much yet, but we are expecting that at the end of the month,” Seifert said. “We did get quite a few calls when the letters first went out explaining this change. But we do expect a lot of calls around March 24, or that week after, when the supplements would have normally been added on to the benefit card.”
In addition to the additional SNAP benefit ending, a return to routine operations for Medicaid will also be taking place.
Shiffert said that in April Medicaid will resume normal eligibility operations which will result in some Medicaid members being disenrolled from the program.
The renewal process will be required for all Medicaid cases over the next 12 months.
This does not mean that everyone will be dropped from Medicaid. But, since the declaration of the public health emergency in March 2020 and Ohio freezing all Medicaid disenrollments except for death, a move out of Ohio or voluntary disenrollment, the number of Medicaid recipients grew from 15,298 in Jan. 2020, to 21,051 last month.
The growth in Medicaid resulted in an expansion of funding from $10.3 million to $13.4 million.
“It is imperative that Medicaid members ensure their contact information is up to date, watch for mail from their CDJFS, and respond to requests for information. If members do not respond to renewal letters or requests for information, they run the risk of losing their healthcare coverage, even if they are still eligible,” Shiffert said.
Medicaid members can update their contact information by calling 800-324-8680. Help is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Members with an existing Ohio Benefits Self-Service Portal account can report changes online at https://ssp.benefits.ohio.gov. After logging in, they should click the Access my Benefits tile, then click Report a Change to my Case from the drop down and follow the prompts, Shiffert said.
Herringshaw, a Rotary member, introduced Seifert and Shiffert and wanted to point out the potential impact on Wood County.
“I think this is going to have a financial impact,” Herringshaw said. “One of the things (Seifert) said was that the SNAP program, right now, brings in (additionally) more than a million dollars a month. Well that money that (families) got on SNAP will now have to be used from other family expenses. So there’s going to be a lot of spending that would have happened, that will not happen now, because they will have to use that money for food.”
Seifert and Shiffert urged families to open their mail, as notices of the changes would be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
Contact the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services by emailing [email protected] or calling 419-352-7566. If food referrals are needed, call 211 or 419-352-7566 ext. 8492. If assistance related to nursing homes is needed, email [email protected].