During the last two years of the pandemic, dealing with its effects has been difficult for families all across the US. Families have dealt with loss of income, difficulty finding work, as well as issues regarding health concerns. While every family has been directly impacted by the pandemic in one way or another, families who fall in the low to middle-class socio-economic bracket, have seen some of the more staggering financial impacts.
What typical middle and lower-class families were used to spending on groceries, gas, and entertainment for families, has substantially increased over the last year. Grocery prices have risen a total of 3.0% nationally since August 2020, according to data gathered by the USDA, and it’s not showing any signs of stopping. Gas prices have risen almost 40% since January 1st, 2021 as well, according to researchers at CBS News. Inflation has made its impact known to those lower to middle-class families, and families around the Texarkana area have had to make adjustments to their budgets and homes as a result.
For those who are lucky enough to not see dents in their budgets, the inflation of food and gas prices hasn’t made much of an impact. But for families who strictly budget their monthly funds, money has gotten even tighter. What was once an easy-to-follow budget, has now become difficult for many families across the Texarkana area. For families who qualify for special services including SNAP benefits, grocery budgets are a bit easier. However, with the increase in food prices, it has made it harder to purchase everything their families need. For families who fall under the required monthly income limits, seeking help from SNAP benefits just isn’t possible. Many families in the Texarkana area, with two working parents, and school-aged children, are finding that help may not come soon enough.
According to census data gathered in 2019, the average family in Texarkana had a median combined monthly income of $3,756. Data also gathered in the 2019 census showed that 21.7% of those residing in Texarkana, fall in the poverty rate. However, families who are seeking help through SNAP benefits as a family of four, need to meet the minimum requirements of $3,603/month to qualify. While the majority of families in the Texarkana area are sitting on that average $3,756/month income, the SNAP benefit program has yet to reassess their eligibility levels since inflation began. Meaning, the majority of families in the Texarkana area who are struggling to purchase food for their families, have had to reassess the importance of their lifestyles based on what they need to spend on gas and food each week.
We asked several families in the Texarkana Area, regardless of economic status, what they budget weekly to spend on groceries, and if they had seen a change in their monthly budgets in the last year. Here is what our local community had to say. “We spend $200 a week for a family of six, and it’s been rough!” said Texas resident Leah Garrett. “We’re just going without. Trying to make about $130 in groceries last 2 weeks for 3 people. $130, was doable before,” said Maria Alexander, Texarkana resident. “We budget $170/week and still go over sometimes. Definitely had to increase earlier this year to at least $30/week extra because we were constantly going over,” said Nikki Foster, resident of Texarkana. “I quit buying meats to cut back on expenses. My family hunts, so we were blessed to have meat to carry over to this year. Cutting back on extras, and going anywhere more than we need to, because the gas price has more than doubled,” said Texarkana resident Lisa Steward-Sinyard.
While Texarkana residents are seeing changes in their monthly budgets and their ability to remain financially stable, changes to policies and eligibility requirements have yet to be reassessed. If you or your family is struggling and are in need of financial assistance, you may qualify for SNAP benefits. Please visit their website.