(Trends Wide) — Food stamp recipients in the United States will see their monthly payments increase in October thanks to a major program update, even though a special stimulus for the pandemic has already expired.
Profits will rise 27% above pre-pandemic levels, on average, the largest increase in its history. The change is due to a revision of the Thrifty Food Plan, an eating plan that determines the amounts of the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known by its acronym SNAP, the formal name for food stamps.
This update is part of a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) review of the food stamp program required by the 2018 Farm Bill. The then Republican-led Congress directed the agency to reassess the plan for fiscal year 2022 and every five years thereafter. The plan was last adjusted in 2006.
Based on the review, which is permanent, beneficiaries will see, on average, a $ 36 increase in monthly benefits. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they received US $ 121 per person.
Including the annual cost of living adjustment, which is based on food price inflation and begins each October, the average monthly benefit will increase to $ 169 per person, according to the agency.
However, recipients will receive more than that because one of Congress’s pandemic relief programs is still in effect in most states, even though the 15% increase ended on September 30. Lawmakers also raised members’ monthly food stamp allowances to the maximum amount for their family size during the pandemic, a measure that President Joe Biden extended earlier this year to an additional 25 million people in households from very low income who originally did not receive the fringe benefits.
Taking this into account, beneficiaries will receive US $ 251 per person, on average. More than 42.3 million people signed up for the program in June, up from nearly 37 million who signed up in February 2020.
Pending for a long time
The adequacy of food stamp benefits has been a question for a long time. Defenders of low-income Americans argue that funds run out before the month is out. But conservative experts say the program is designed to supplement a family’s food budget.
Left-wing activists have said for years that the Thrifty Food Plan, which was introduced in 1975, is out of date. It makes unrealistic assumptions about the affordability and availability of food today, as well as the time families have to buy and prepare meals, they argue.
“We haven’t really reviewed the underlying assumptions since the 1970s, which is kind of terrible given the difference in the way we eat, the price of food, how families purchase and prepare food,” said Elaine Waxman, researcher. Principal of the Urban Institute. “All of those things have changed dramatically. So this is way overdue.”
The average cost of a meal in the US is $ 2.41 – 22% more than the maximum food stamp benefits offer, according to a recent Urban Institute report that Waxman co-authored. In 2020, the maximum benefit did not cover the cost of a modestly priced meal in 96% of US counties, however, the revision will reduce that figure to approximately 21% of counties.
Still more needs to be done, some advocates argue.
“The Thrifty Food Plan is still really the bare minimum. What is the least amount of money a struggling family would have to spend to eat a healthy diet?” Said Lisa Davis, senior vice president of Share Our Strength, which is looking to finish with hunger and child poverty.
“He is not generous in any way.” “This is really important for the adequacy of SNAP benefits, but we are not quite there yet.”