Jan 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

COVID-19 prompts food stamp spending increase

Photo of a food bank in New York City
Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The U.S. government spent almost $90 billion on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in fiscal year 2020, compared to the $60 billion price tag the year prior, according to data from the Agriculture Department released this week.

Why it matters: Millions of Americans newly received SNAP benefits last year as a result of the pandemic. The coronavirus increased federal spending on the program by an average of 28% per month in April and May alone, nearly double the largest monthly growth seen during the Great Recession, Axios' Dion Rabouin wrote.

By the numbers: 43.8 million people were on the program in 2020, up from 35.7 million in 2019.

  • The average monthly benefit per person increased to $161.12 last year, from about $129.83 in 2019.

The big picture: The data, first reported by Politico, was released after President Biden signed an executive order increasing the scope of SNAP and other food assistance programs, prompting the USDA to increase the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer by approximately 15%.

  • Context: The P-EBT "connects low-income families with kids with food dollars equivalent to the value of the meals missed due to COVID-related school and childcare closures."

Of note: "Data are as of January 08, 2021; FY 2020 and 2021 numbers are preliminary and are subject to significant revision," USDA wrote in its release.

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