COVID-19 relief money supporting grocery stores through SNAP benefits

Local News

Experts say SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, don't just help low-income members of our community, but the overall economy

(WKBN) – One of the benefits included in the COVID-19 pandemic relief bill was additional SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, formerly known as food stamps.

Experts say this benefit doesn’t just help low-income members of our community, but the overall economy.

The COVID-19 relief bill passed at the end of 2020 includes $13 billion for SNAP.

Kristin Mullins, president of the Ohio Grocers Association, said this money will also support grocers and the economy.

She said stores across Ohio have seen a large increase in SNAP benefits throughout 2020. This has helped support the stores with a steady stream of SNAP redemptions.

Mullins said she thinks the extension of SNAP benefits will help her membership, too.

“Let’s say that benefit hadn’t come down from the federal government. Then I think they would’ve been hurt. I think the people would be suffering a little bit, too. We’re all still trying to recoup financially on this big hole that got blown in our plan.”

She explained margins can be very tight for grocers, such as 1% to 1.5% profit on their products. For that reason, she said it is all about volume.

Mullins said she’s seen several independent grocers that were struggling before the pandemic be able to recover because of the increase in shoppers and SNAP benefits.

“Those SNAP dollars, there’s only one place, they can only do one thing with it and that is buy your food with it. That’s certainly helping the [Ohio Grocers Association] members. That’s keeping them fed, that’s getting dollars in that community going, whether it’s federal dollars or personal dollars.”

She said the SNAP benefits helped grocers hire more people above minimum wage and give employees bonuses this past year, supporting local economies.

Economists say SNAP benefits are the most effective government funding during a recession. Numbers from Moody’s Analytics show SNAP benefits have the most bang for the federal government’s buck.

Moody’s Analytics laid out how different stimulus funding supports the economy. For every $1 the federal government funds, the economic benefit is worth $1.74.

We’re also seeing an extension of unemployment benefits right now because of the pandemic. That also has a high impact, coming in at $1.61.

The lowest impact comes from a corporate tax cut. For every $1 the government sees, the economy actually loses money.

Mullins said some of her grocers benefit even more from SNAP benefits based on their area. Research by the USDA shows SNAP has a larger impact on hiring and the local community in rural areas.

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