Jun 25, 2020 - Economy

Coronavirus pandemic prompts record food stamp spending

Reproduced from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

The federal government spent $8.55 billion on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits last month, a 62% increase from what it spent just two months earlier in March, new analysis from the Peterson Foundation shows.

Details: The coronavirus pandemic increased federal spending on the program by an average of 28% per month in April and May, nearly double the largest monthly growth seen during the Great Recession.

  • The only other time SNAP spending has grown nearly as fast was around February 2019, when benefits for that month were advanced to prepare for a government shutdown.

What it means: The growth reflects an increased need for food stamps and government assistance as well as legislative changes, like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was signed into law on March 18, analysts at Peterson Foundation note.

The FFCRA:

  • Introduced the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), which provides benefits to families with children that rely on free or reduced-price school meals.
  • Allows states to increase maximum benefits to all households through Emergency Allotments.
  • Suspends the work and work training requirements for able-bodied adults.
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimated that those changes will increase program costs by $10.4 billion and $10.8 billion in fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021, respectively.
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