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A person picking up a meal at a food drive at Garfield High School in Los Angeles in February 2021. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday that households already receiving the maximum monthly benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will now be able to receive emergency benefits approved by Congress last March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The action, a reversal of Trump administration policy, will allow about 25 million Americans to receive $95 per month in increased benefits.

Context: Previously, the lowest income households were unable to get the additional emergency payments approved through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act because they were already receiving the maximum monthly benefits from SNAP.

  • Plaintiffs in two lawsuits in Pennsylvania and California argued that former President Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, misinterpreted a section of that act and denied the emergency allotments for millions of families, according to the Washington Post.

What they're saying: “The emergency SNAP increases authorized by Congress last year were not being distributed equitably, and the poorest households — who have the least ability to absorb the economic shocks brought about by COVID — received little to no emergency benefit increases,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

  • “As part of President Biden’s commitment to deliver economic relief, and ensure every family can afford to put food on the table, today’s actions will provide much-needed support for those who need it most.”
  • The department said benefit levels will remain unchanged for households that have already been receiving the increased payments.

The big picture: About 40% of the households that received little to no emergency allocations have children, while 20% include someone who is elderly and 15% include someone who has a disability, according to the Agriculture Department.

  • Since the start of the pandemic, the department has distributed about $29 billion in emergency benefits.

Go deeper

IRS, Treasury have distributed 130 million stimulus payments

Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of the Treasury said Thursday they've distributed more than 130 million payments worth approximately $335 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Why it matters: A third batch of 4 million payments, totaling more than $10 billion, was sent on March 31, but the IRS and Treasury still have millions of payments to deliver. The payments of $1,400 per individual were mostly distributed via direct deposits and checks. 

Biden headed to the Hill as Democrats struggle to reach deal on spending bills

President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leave a House Democratic Caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 1. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday morning will meet with the House Democratic Caucus on Capitol Hill to provide an update about his Build Back Better agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure deal, according to a White House official.

Driving the news: The meeting comes as Democrats struggle to reach a deal on the spending bills. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Sunday that Democrats were planning to reach an agreement on the infrastructure package this week, before Biden's departure to Europe, which is slated for later on Thursday.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
48 mins ago - Economy & Business

Why it's so hard to tax wealth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.