The Biden Administration signed off on the most significant expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Colloquially referred to as “food stamps,” the program is used by 40 million Americans.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, benefits averaged $121 per month. SNAP benefits will now increase in October for the first time since the program’s creation in 1975. Benefits will increase by an average of 25% above pre-pandemic levels — about $36 per month — under the new policy.
The extra benefits SNAP recipients got during the pandemic is set to expire at the end of September.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the updated benefits formula is based on current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance and the nutrients in food items. A study by the government in June found that 88% of SNAP recipients were struggling to achieve a healthy diet,” per CNBC.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement that “modernizing” the program was equivalent to investing in America’s “health, economy, and security.”
“Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more. And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way,” he said.
“The changes, which do not require congressional approval, are based on updates the Department of Agriculture made to the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), an estimate of the cost of a nutritious diet for a family of four,” reports FOX Business.
Four key factors identified in the 2018 Farm Bill were the focus of the USDA’s decision: current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance, and the nutrients in food items.
According to Newsweek, “the increase is part of a multi-pronged Biden administration effort to strengthen the country’s social safety net. Poverty and food security activists maintain that long-standing inadequacies in that safety net were laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting an opportunity to make generational improvements that reach beyond the current public health crisis.”
During the Trump administration, “USDA sought to limit access to benefits and impose stiffer work requirements on able-bodied adults without dependents,” notes Politico.
The SNAP participation in 2019 was about 36 million people, down from 47 million at its peak in 2013.
Roughly 12% of the country’s population receives food stamps.