The nation’s food stamp program, known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will be effectively raising the average monthly benefit by $36.24 per person, or $1.19 per day. This will bring the average total monthly benefit to $169 and marks the largest ever permanent increase (25%) of food aid available to needy families.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which manages the SNAP program, under direction from the Biden administration confirmed the increase which they said reflects higher costs for a nutritious diet in line with rising food prices. The change will take effect on October 1st, 2021 for the 2022 fiscal year (ending September 2022) and will cost around $20 billion.
Note that the pandemic 15% boost, per the earlier update below, expires at the end of September 2021. So this 25% increase is based on 2019-2020 pre-pandemic levels. The latest 25% increase won’t have to be approved by Congress per the Republican passed 2018 farm law which allows annual food cost revisions under the USDA Thrifty Food Plan.
According to official data, SNAP helps to feed more than 42 million Americans. While this increase may seem small overall, it is a significant boon to the millions of Americans that rely on this program. Especially during the pandemic where food banks and pantries struggled to cope with a surge in demand for their food provision services.
[2020 Update] Under President Biden’s new economic agenda he has signed an executive order instructing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow states to increase SNAP (food stamp) benefits by 15%. Per the update below, Congress had boosted the maximum SNAP benefit by 15%, but that did not help the 40% of SNAP recipients who were already at the maximum benefit. If states follow the updated guidance an additional 12 million people would get the enhanced benefits.
As part of his American Rescue Plan proposal, President Biden is calling on Congress to provide additional support to ensure that all Americans, regardless of background, have access to healthy, affordable groceries….to help women, infants and children get the food they need. USDA will consider issuing new guidance that would allow states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for those who need it most.
2020 – 2021 COVID Relief Bill Increase (Congress passed)
Under the recently passed $900 billion COVID relief bill, $13 billion of additional funding was allocated to the SNAP/Food stamp program, which increases the maximum benefits through the food assistance program through June 30, 2021. The main benefit, which was missing from the original stimulus bill, is an across-the-board 15% increase in monthly SNAP benefits for the next six months, starting January. 1st 2021. This will benefit approximately 43 million Americans receiving food stamps. The package also expands eligibility for SNAP benefits to lower income college students, while the elderly will see a boost in funding for the Older Americans Act nutrition programs ($175 million).
[Sep 2020] With no new stimulus package currently approved by a divided Congress, the following are COVID SNAP adjustments still available:
Emergency Allotments (EA): States can issue emergency supplements to SNAP households that normally receive less than the maximum benefit.
Pandemic EBT (P-EBT): States can provide benefits (similar to SNAP or “food stamps”) to children who normally receive free or reduced-price school meals.
SNAP Online Purchasing: The Food and Nutrition services (FNS) department has rapidly expanded SNAP online purchasing to support social distancing, bringing access to nearly three-quarters of the states, covering 90% of SNAP households.
Extend certification periods for up to 6 months and adjust periodic report requirements for some or all households,. This option is only available to households with certification periods set to expire or periodic reports due on or before June 30, 2021.
[Update on Additional SNAP benefits] Under the recently proposed HEROs act House Democrats have included a provision is to boost the maximum SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) payment benefit by 15%. This is designed to help low income earners deal with the rising cost of food as a result of supply chain disruption and production shortages.
The HEROs act and included provisions will likely go through a lot of debates and changes due to strong opposition from moderate Democrats and Republicans who worry about the ballooning federal deficit. But if the economy does not improve and unemployment does not fall or there is a significant resurgence of the Coronavirus later this year then it seems almost certain a second stimulus package will be passed. I will post updates as they come to light.
Additional funding has been provided under the CARE stimulus bill, that provides some critical program funding for many middle and lower income American families. Key provisions include:
Child nutrition: $8.8 billion was provided for schools to give more flexibility around providing meals for students. Most areas where schools have been closed are now offering up to 2 free meals per day for school aged children. Another $450 million was provided for food banks and other community food distribution programs.
Food stamps/SNAP: $15.5 billion is going to the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to cover the cost of new applications to the program as a result of the coronavirus. Note however this does not increase monthly benefits, rather it just provides additional federal funding for the likely surge in new applicants. Many wanted the wanted the minimum SNAP benefit to be doubled (to $30 per month) and a 20% raise in the maximum benefit.
It is likely that more relief will come to the above program in the next stimulus, so please subscribe via the options below to get the latest updates.