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Most people using emergency food benefits are working poor, state says

As many as 75% of able-bodied SNAP recipients in Delaware are working or have worked in the last 12 months, an official says.

Jackie Gudzelak is underemployed, and her family’s tight economic situation was eased at the end of August with enhanced emergency benefits.

“I definitely appreciate the extra help,” she said. “The extra puts me a little at ease.”

She and her three children among the 120,000 Delawareans receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. 

Delaware announced last month emergency benefits for households who don’t receive the monthly maximum of $194 for a household of one, rising up to $1,164 for a household of eight.

Gudzelak and her three children get $334 from SNAP, and she expected to get $312 more. She works for a temp agency that for a year has placed her at the state’s Northeast State Service Center.

“I like to help people – people don’t know about the available resources from the state,” she said.

But her other job – five years working as a sales associate for the Christiana Mall Gap store – has generated no income since June because the store is temporarily closed. Her children are alsohome  all at time, without the breakfast and lunch they got when attending school in person.

Gudzelak, who rents a place in New Castle and follows the sales to stretch her food dollar, said that she knows many people on the economic edge.

“I feel that people who don’t qualify – maybe they make little too much – should get more help, too. They’re still struggling.”

Many SNAP households in Delaware have received emergency monthly benefits since March, when the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed.

SNAP benefits are based on a number of factors, including household size, income, shelter and utility cost, said Ray Fitzgerald, director of the Delaware Social Services Division. 

“After removing elderly, disabled and minor recipients, as many as 75% of the able-bodied SNAP recipients in Delaware are working or have worked in the last 12 months so most recipients do not receive the maximum benefit,” Fitzgerald said. “It is for these reasons why this Emergency SNAP Issuance is so beneficial to the working poor and elderly recipients.”

The average size of a SNAP household in Delaware is 2.04 individuals, and the average monthly benefit amount is $233. Applications for SNAP benefits are taken online.

“Many families continue to struggle to meet their food and nutritional needs because of the ongoing economic impact of COVID-19,” Molly Magarik, secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services, said in a statement. “This additional assistance provides much-needed relief for Delawareans who worry about going hungry.”

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