Mar 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

USDA to increase SNAP food aid by 15% through September

Food Stamps beneficiaries do their groceries shopping at Agranel Supermarket in Manati.

Photo: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September, providing about $3.5 billion of assistance to people affected by food insecurity.

Why it matters: The pandemic has spurred an uptick in food stamp spending. As part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, the increase in benefits will provide about $28 more per person per month or more than $100 more per month for a household of four.

What they're saying: "We cannot sit by and watch food insecurity grow in the United States," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

  • "The American Rescue Plan brings help to those hurting the most due to the pandemic. It increases SNAP benefits so households can afford to put food on the table.
  • "It invests in working people and small towns and small businesses to get the economy back on track. And it makes the most meaningful investments in generations to reduce poverty," Vilsack added.

The big picture: Those struggling with food insecurity often have higher rates of underlying health conditions, which can "increase the risk of people developing severe COVID-19 symptoms," according to a United Nations report.

  • During the first few months of the pandemic, Black households with children experienced food insecurity at nearly two times the rate of white households with children, per a report from Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research.
  • The increase in benefits paints a sharp contrast to the Trump administration's attempt to block states from giving emergency food stamps to low-income Americans during the pandemic last year.
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