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USDA Increases Food Stamps Program With COVID Relief Bill Funding

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The United States Department of Agriculture announced on Monday that it will be increasing benefits from its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, otherwise known as food stamps. The move comes by way of funding from the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden’s COVID relief bill that was recently signed into law.

According to a press release by the USDA, the department plans to implement “a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September 2021, providing an estimated $3.5 billion to households experiencing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The expansion of 15% “will provide about $28 more per person, per month, or more than $100 more per month for a household of four, in additional SNAP benefits.”

“We cannot sit by and watch food insecurity grow in the United States,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “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.”

According to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, participation in the program increased from the fiscal year of 2019 to 2020 by over 4 million persons. From the fiscal year of 2020 to 2021, it increased by almost another 2 million persons. However, the fiscal year of 2018 shows similar numbers to 2020 and 2021 at 40.7 million people participating in the program. The 2020 and 2021 fiscal year participation numbers were around 39.8 million people and 41.7 million people, respectively.

The data also includes information about the costs of the benefits program. In 2018, the cost was over $60 billion, but during the fiscal year of 2019, the cost went down to $55 billion. In 2020, the cost increased to over $74 billion.

An information sheet on the nutrition program extension states that without the COVID relief bill, the expansion of the program in place would end in June. It states, “The extension will provide an estimated $3.5 billion in relief directly to over 41 million people living in struggling households. In addition to helping millions of families put food on the table, additional SNAP benefits are shown to have a powerful stimulative impact on the economy.” It also claims that more benefits provided through SNAP help to reduce child poverty by half, which it says is one of the American Rescue Plan’s “most powerful estimated impacts.”

The expansion will also assist states as they give out more benefits through SNAP by providing “an additional $1.135 billion in administrative resources for states over three years, without requiring states to match those funds.”

The government benefits website says that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the largest of its kind. It allows low-income individuals and families to use an Electronic Benefits Transfer card in order to receive help in order to purchase food. The website explains, “This card can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.”

People who wish to check if they are eligible for the program can visit the SNAP eligibility website.

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