According to agency estimates, the boost will translate to a total of $19.7 billion in additional benefits over a one-year period.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Monday that it would make a significant, permanent increase to monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) benefits beginning October 1, 2021—a move that anti-hunger advocates are heralding as a “long overdue update” to the federal program.
For SNAP recipients, the boost will translate to an average increase of $36.24 per month, or $1.19 per day. For comparison, the average monthly benefit equaled approximately $121 per person before the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. The increase, first reported by The New York Times, is expected to impact approximately 42.8 million people and increase total benefits by almost $20 billion through October 2022.
“Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a USDA press release. “And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”
“Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more.”
Today’s news comes after months of USDA analysis into the present-day cost of healthy eating, as mandated in the 2018 Farm Bill and later directed by President Biden in January. While SNAP benefits are regularly bumped up to reflect inflation, this is the first time that USDA has increased the value of monthly aid beyond simply pegging it to the current cost of living.
At the core of USDA’s recent assessment is a concept called the “Thrifty Food Plan,” which sets a ceiling on the amount that households can receive under SNAP. First introduced in 1975, the Thrifty Food Plan is meant to represent the cost of eating within a limited budget, while still meeting current dietary guidelines.