Aug. 16, 2021 -- The Biden administration has approved a permanent increase in food stamp benefits, resulting in the largest increase in the program’s history, according to The New York Times.
The new benefits, which will be formally announced on Monday, will rise more than 25% above pre-pandemic levels. The change will take place in October.
The increased assistance will be available to all 42 million people who benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, according to The Associated Press. Under a revision to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Thrifty Food Plan, the average monthly per-person benefits will increase from $121 to $157.
Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, said last week that the increased assistance will help to “stabilize our democracy.”
“We may have a Constitution and a Declaration of Independence, but if we have 42 million Americans who were going hungry, really hungry, they wouldn’t be happy and there would be political instability,” he told the Times.
The increase is part of a Biden administration effort to strengthen the country’s social safety net, the AP reported. Experts in food security have said that pre-pandemic SNAP levels weren’t enough to feed households, which often prompted families to choose cheaper and less nutritious options.
More than three-quarters of households that receive benefits run out of funds during the first half of the month, the newspaper reported. Researchers have linked the food shortages to a variety of problems, such as higher hospital admissions, more school suspensions, and lower standardized test scores.
SNAP beneficiaries include a wide variety of Americans, according to the Times, including older adults, people with disabilities, and the working poor. About 43% are children.
The funds are given out on a sliding scale. The new maximum will increase to $835 per month for a family of four, the newspaper reported.
The new plan uses a broader price index to account for real-world prices across the country, as well as a better reflection of how Americans eat and the time it takes for time-strapped families to prepare meals.
“It was a scientific, analytical process,” Stacy Dean, a senior Agriculture Department official who oversees the program, told the newspaper. “It wasn’t about approving a benefit increase.”