In one of the largest increases ever recorded in U.S. history, the Biden Administration has announced that starting in October 2021, food stamp benefits for lower-income families will grow by a life-changing 25%.
Ashraf Khalil and Josh Boak of the Associated Press have reported that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will not only increase to more than 25% above pre-pandemic levels, but the added assistance will be permanent and available to all 42 million beneficiaries.
The announcement of the increased SNAP benefit comes as the current 15% boost implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic was set to expire at the end of September.
In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he hopes the change in SNAP benefits “will do a better job of providing healthy food for low-income families.”
“The aid boost is being packaged as a major revision to the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan, which estimates the cost to purchase groceries for a family of four and guides the way the government calculates benefits,” Khalil and Boak reported. “In practical terms, the average monthly per-person benefits for qualified recipients will rise from $121 to $157.”
The increase in SNAP benefits will cost the United States a projected $20 billion more per year, but the policy won’t have to be approved by Congress. Former President Donald Trump approved a bill created by the then GOP-led Congress, which intended to review and reassess the existing food assistance program.
“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, I think there’s a shared understanding of the importance of this program,” Vilsack told reporters.
“The increase is part of a multi-pronged Biden-administration effort to strengthen the country’s social safety net,” Khalil and Boak said. “Poverty and food security activists maintain that longstanding inadequacies were laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting an opportunity to make generational improvements that reach beyond the current public health crisis.”
Many public health officials said the previous food assistance programs were too small and forced many households to choose cheaper and less nutritious foods — or worse, go hungry at the end of the month as funds ran out. Vilsack said he hopes these issues will soon be a thing of the past, and the newly enhanced food assistance program will allow families to “be able to make healthy choices” all month long.