Increase in food stamp benefits by the Biden administration


Starting Oct. 1, the average monthly SNAP payments will be around 27 percent more than they were before the epidemic.

The Biden administration intends to announce a substantial permanent boost to the food stamp payments that help 42 million Americans buy groceries on Monday — a record increase for one of the country's greatest safety net programs.

As of Oct. 1, the average monthly payments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would be about 27 percent greater than they were before the outbreak, according to a government official. This equates to an increase of about 40 cents for each meal.

Congress allowed a 15 percent pandemic plus-up at the end of last year, but it was due to expire on Sept. 30.

What’s new: The Biden administration is enhancing the benefits by revising what is known as the Thrifty Food Plan, the Agriculture Department's assessment of what it costs to buy a nutritious meal with little resources. The plan is used to determine the maximum amount of SNAP benefits that may be claimed.

In the previous agriculture bill, Congress ordered USDA to revise the plan by 2022 and then every five years thereafter to keep it current. Because of the impending benefits cliff, the government moved quickly to be ahead of the game.

On Monday, the USDA will lay out exactly how it came to the conclusion that benefits should increase. One major change: The formula will take into consideration convenience meals like chopped frozen veggies, packaged salads, and canned beans, which are considerably more popular today than when the plan was last modified in 2006.

Pre-pandemic, the average monthly benefit was $121 per person.

The New York Times broke the news of Monday's statement first.

The big shift: The fact that the Biden administration is permanently raising payments for millions of Americans represents a major shift for the program, which has for years provoked political disputes about the role and size of government. The action does not require the consent of Congress.

During the Trump administration, the USDA tried to restrict access to assistance and impose stricter work requirements on able-bodied people without dependents. House Republicans battled tooth and nail to include stricter work requirements in the previous agricultural bill, but the Senate disagreed, and the program was left alone.

In 2019, SNAP membership fell down to about 36 million people, down from a peak of more than 47 million in 2013, when the country was slowly rebounding from the Great Recession. Before the epidemic, the entire cost of the program had fallen to a little over $60 billion per year.

However, during the present economic crisis, the program, which is meant to expand and shrink with the economy, has exploded. At the end of May, almost 42 million individuals were getting assistance.

As a result of a substantial increase in the number of people eligible for assistance, as well as a major increase in benefits, the costs have risen to close to $100 billion.

Republicans have questions: Ahead of Biden's statement on Monday, Republicans voiced misgivings about his decision to expand benefits.

G.T. Thompson and John Boozman, senior members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, called on the Government Accountability Office late last week to investigate the Biden administration's procedure for revising the plan that governs how benefits are calculated.

Republican staff on Capitol Hill have been asking USDA questions about the update for months, but they have voiced irritation with what they perceive as a lack of transparency regarding the study.

Tom Vilsack, the Agriculture Secretary, defended the administration's procedures on Friday, according to the Washington Post.

“As directed by the 2018 Farm Bill passed by a Republican-led Congress, the Department of Agriculture conducted a scientifically rigorous and data-driven review of the Thrifty Food Plan,” Vilsack said in a statement to POLITICO. “We will release the results of that review soon and will be prepared to brief members of Congress interested in the results.”

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