Amid growing need, extra food stamp benefits extended to end of May

Families are also finding that their benefits don't go as far as they used to.
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 6:24 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 16, 2022 at 10:21 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With a growing number of people in Hawaii needing help to put food on the table, state leaders decided to extend additional food stamp benefits until the end of May.

The benefits were originally set to expire in March.

“So many families are living in poverty. So many families are living in food insecurity and don’t have enough to eat, and that is an emergency in itself, and it’s been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Department of Human Services Director Cathy Betts.

On March 24, Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to address food insecurity.

According to the Department of Human Services, nearly 200,000 people in Hawaii rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. State officials say it is a 36% increase from prior to the pandemic.

The data shows there aren’t as many people receiving SNAP benefits this year compared to last year. However, it is still much more than prior to the pandemic. In addition, there has been a steady increase in the numbers over the past few months.

“People have to choose, unfortunately, they make that difficult choice for their families whether they’re going to put gas in their cars or food on the table, and that’s a difficult choice for families to make,” Betts said.

Kit Okimoto’s family owns three grocery stores in Hawaii: Waianae Store, Nanakuli Super and Friendly Market on Molokai.

He said his clientele benefits greatly from these extra benefits.

“The supplement has been of great benefit to a lot of our clientele. Since the supplemental issuances have been going out, we have seen an increase in SNAP purchases,” Okimoto said.

“SNAP benefits are just issued once a month in the first week. So having that supplemental, which is usually around the middle of the month. I think it’s really helped them budget for the remainder of the month until the next issuance.”

This proclamation continues through May 24.

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