Federal pandemic programs providing aid to Utahns coming to an end
OGDEN — Come March, all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program emergency allotments and aid through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program issued to qualifying Utah households as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end.
Eligible recipients of SNAP will be returning to pre-pandemic benefit levels and ERA funds in the amount of $344 million provided as part of the federal American Rescue Plan are expected to be exhausted by the end of March.
Applications submitted by Feb. 5, however, will be honored on a first-come, first-served basis.
“These programs have helped thousands of Utah residents to make it through the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic,” Nate McDonald, deputy director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said in a press release. “But we have always known these programs would be temporary, and fortunately, Utah’s economy has thousands of job opportunities for those who are looking.”
The ERA program, which launched March 15, 2021, had processed more than 97,000 applications as of Dec. 31, 2022, paying $287 million in rent and utility assistance to eligible Utahns, according to the DWS.
In December, Gov. Spencer Cox made a series of budget recommendations taking aim at challenges facing Utahns with respect to increasing housing costs and inflation. Among them were a $150 million investment for housing and $800,000 for Utah food pantries to offset rising food costs.
The recommendations now await approval by the state Legislature in the upcoming legislative session.
While the housing funds as proposed would support all Utahns, from those experiencing homelessness to first-time homebuyers, assistance at food pantries typically is limited only to those of very limited means.
According to the Catholic Community Services website, the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in Ogden — the largest food bank in Northern Utah, serving over 5,000 households monthly — requires clients to fall below 185% of the federal poverty level.
In Utah, over 347,000 people struggle with hunger, according to CCS.
DWS Public Information Officer Sarah Nielson said Weber County data shows an average of 384 unique households received ERA assistance monthly from September to December 2022.
Likewise for unique households in Ogden City, 333 received ERA assistance each month during the same time frame.
According to the latest data available, Utah’s job growth rate is 2.6% with an unemployment rate of 2.2%.