The Perfect Storm of 2023

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While a series of storms unseen in decades brought much-needed rain this past month to the Los Angeles area, a different set of storms, brewing for years, is impacting the region’s large population of people whose income isn’t sufficient for the unbelievably high costs of living here. It’s a storm that will hit its peak in April and bring hunger, pain, and an economic slowdown.

After March of this year, the emergency allotments added by the federal government to the accounts of participants in CalFresh (the federal SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will be terminated. Most of the country has already seen the end of these benefits. California is one
of a few states that appealed for a waiver to continue them. But these benefits added due to the pandemic will be finished countrywide in March.

For the average household receiving CalFresh, there will be a loss of $82 of monthly benefits to purchase food. However, some households, particularly one-person households with a senior or disabled occupant, will see drops as drastic as $258. Statewide, half a billion dollars per month will be collectively lost by the lowest income and most vulnerable populations. This situation has been described as the “CalFresh Cliff” or “Hunger Cliff”.

Worse, this is coming at a time when inflation of food prices has already diluted the value of CalFresh benefits. The loss of half a billion dollars monthly to the California economy will wreak havoc on the retail food industry and possibly lead to layoffs and even higher food prices or store closures in food insecure areas, forcing people to travel farther to buy food. People with disabilities or without cars will struggle to get what they need in addition to being able to purchase less of it. Families who need to feed into their children may have to dip into their rent funds, at a time when homelessness has caused cities, counties and the state to declare an emergency, and at a time when renter protections have just barely been extended for a few more months. More evictions are on the horizon.


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