Demand for food and cash assistance in New York at historic high
Emilie Munson is reporting for the Times Union the demand for food and cash assistance for New York residents spiked recently to levels not seen in years, state data shows. Experts said the rising need is likely fueled by inflation, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and workforce and the winding down of many pandemic-assistance programs that helped keep people fed and housed for the past two years. "The number of people coming in to apply for benefits [this fall] is astronomical," said Albany County Department of Social Services Commissioner Michele McClave. "Not all are eligible, but they feel a need." More than 530,000 state residents received temporary cash assistance in September, a level higher than any month since March 2018, according to the latest data from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Likewise, the number of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits, was greater in the spring and summer than it was at any other time over the past several years. While data for October and November are not yet available, McClave and other officials said they have seen high demand continue. Local food pantries are also observing a substantial surge in hunger cases. In a survey of Capital Region food pantries this fall, 83 percent said they were feeding more people this year than last and nearly half raised concerns about having adequate funding or being able to source products, according to the Food Pantries for the Capital District, a coalition of 70 food pantries in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.SNAP benefits are used to buy groceries. Cash assistance helps families with children and certain eligible individuals cover their expenses. Recipients must meet strict criteria to receive the benefits and may be required to have a job. The government programs provide benefits through a combination of state and federal money. Read more in the Times Union.