(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — In February, food budgets were slashed for low-income families despite persistent inflation keeping grocery prices soaring, but Gov. Josh Shapiro is hoping the commonwealth can step in to help.

The pandemic-era extension of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits has expired. Families usually received their SNAP allotments midway through the month, but those benefits will be smaller this month and moving forward.

In his proposed 2023-24 budget, Shapiro hopes to see Pennsylvania’s allotment of SNAP benefits increase by 50%. That would cost about $16 million.

The pandemic-era extension provided at least $95 more per month. Shapiro’s proposal would increase the minimum monthly SNAP benefit for seniors and people with disabilities to $35 each month.

Further, Shapiro has proposed keeping the universal school breakfast program, which provides a free breakfast to all students at participating schools.

“As I’ve crisscrossed the commonwealth, I’ve met families from all different walks of life. But no matter where they come from, I heard a lot of the same concerns: folks are worried about rising costs and feeding their families,” Shapiro said in a March 20 news release. “I’ve listened to your stories, and I’ve heard your concerns, and I’m directing my administration to do everything in our power to offer relief and help you and your family to put food on the table, stay safe and stay healthy.”  

The news release also highlighted food assistance resources that currently are available, including Pennsylvania WIC resources for SNAP recipients who are pregnant or with children younger than 5 years old (more details are available online). By calling 211, residents can be connected with food resources. A list of food banks and other food assistance programs can be found online. Both the Department of Human Services and the Department of Agriculture have information for assistance programs. SNAP-eligible senior citizens can participate in the Senior Food Box Program.