US food banks in Republican states are preparing for a massive demand surge in food aid this summer as 24 GOP-led states are set to end federal unemployment assistance before they're set to expire on Sept. 6.
The benefits set to lapse include the additional $300 weekly federal supplement and other Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programs that support low-income households. The policies have also contributed to a historic labor shortage after millions of people received more money via government benefits to staying at home than actually work.
With local economies reopening up across the country, here are states that are pulling pandemic benefits early so that millions of people can reenter the labor market:
Jun. 19: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming
Jun. 26: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas
Jun. 27: Montana, Oklahoma, Utah
Jul. 3: Tennessee
Jul. 10: Arizona
According to JPMorgan, cutting benefits is "tied to politics, not economics."
With two dozen GOP-led states pulling benefits within the next month, millions of people are expected to return to food bank lines this summer, similar to what was seen last spring/summer.
Already, US Census Bureau figures show 19.3 million adults experienced food insecurity issues.
Food banks around the country are well aware that millions of Americans are set to lose generous unemployment benefits, according to The Guardian.
"We are still distributing about a million to a million and a half more meals each month than we did pre Covid," said Teresa Schryver, advocacy manager for the St Louis Area Food Bank in Bridgeton, Missouri services for residents in Missouri and nearby Illinois.
Schryver said there could be another "spike in July and August as we're losing the unemployment benefits here in Missouri, so we might be doing 2m meals again for a couple of months."
She said the public health crisis is abating this spring as summer approaches due to the high level of vaccinations, but the lingering economic effects tied to virus-related shutdowns has economically doomed millions of people.
"We hope it's not going to take us 10 years to get our food insecurity rates back down to pre-pandemic levels, but that's the kind of timeline we're looking at," Schryver said.
Florida food banks are also preparing for increased demand later this summer. "With the unemployment benefits level being reduced, it will no doubt put hardship on a large population here in central Florida. It is impossible to say how much of an impact, but, it cannot be positive," said Dave Krepcho, CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida in Orlando.
"We can see a correlation between an addition or elimination of a household financial benefit," said Thomas Mantz, the CEO and president of Feeding Tampa Bay, which provides a variety of food relief services to communities in the Tampa area. "So when we see stimulus checks go out, we do see less people in our lines, when we see additional unemployment checks, we see less people in our lines. And conversely, when those things stop, we do see our numbers swell."
Thomas Mantz, the CEO and president of Feeding Tampa Bay, said demand is about 35% higher than pre-pandemic levels.
In Texas, all federal extended unemployment benefits end on Jun. 26, leaving more than 1.3 million unemployed workers with reduced benefits. Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas, said the lowest-income Americans continue to struggle despite the recovery. She expects food bank demand will surge at the end of this month when benefits are wound down.
"We're anticipating that we will see at least a short-term surge when the unemployment benefits run out. So we're gearing up for that," said Cole. "People who were lower-income to begin with tend to get hit harder by natural and economic crises, and it can take them as individuals and the communities they live in a lot longer to come back."
... and by the way, there are still 15 million Americans on some form of government dole...
The economic crisis is far from over, and we may just see a reemergence of massive food bank lines this summer.