GREAT NEWS! – 27% Increase in SNAP Benefits in October

Let’s get into this social security update, where we will discussing a recent announcement that Food stamp recipients will soon see their monthly payments go up in October, thanks to a major update to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP for short). This change happened in the nick of time, just as a special pandemic boost had recently expired.

According to reports, benefits will jump 27% above pre-pandemic levels, on average, making it the largest increase in the program’s history. The change stems from a revision of the Thrifty Food Plan, which determines the benefit amounts of the SNAP program. The update was established as part of a US Department of Agriculture review of the food stamp program, which is required under the 2018 Farm Bill. When the legislation was put in place, the then-Republican-led Congress ordered the agency to reevaluate the plan by the 2022 fiscal year, and every five years thereafter. The legislation was last adjusted in 2006.Under the revision, which is permanent, beneficiaries will see a $36 hike in average monthly benefits. Prior to the pandemic, recipients received just $121 per person. If you include the annual cost of living adjustment, which is based on food price inflation and is set to be released on October 13th, the average monthly benefit will jump to $169 per person. However, recipients will actually receive more than that due to one of Congress' pandemic relief programs, which remains in effect in most states, despite the 15% boost ending on September 30th.

Lawmakers also raised enrollees' monthly food stamp allotment to the maximum amount for their family size during the pandemic. This was a move by President Joe Biden, who extended emergency allotments earlier this year to an additional 25 million people in very low-income households who originally didn't receive the additional benefits. Taking this into account, beneficiaries will receive an average of $251 per person. More than 42.3 million people were enrolled in the program in June, up from nearly 37 million in February 2020.The adequacy of food stamp benefits has long been a question. Advocates for low-income Americans argue that the funds will run out before the month is over. However, conservative experts point out that the program is designed to supplement a family's food budget. Left-leaning advocates have complained for years that the Thrifty Food Plan, which was introduced in 1975, is outdated.

The Thrifty Food Plan makes unrealistic assumptions about food affordability, availability, as well as regarding the time it takes families to shop and prepare meals. According to Elaine Waxman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, "We really haven't revisited the underlying assumptions since the '70s, which is a little bit horrifying given how different the way we eat, the price of foods, how families acquire and prepare foods. All of those things have changed so dramatically. So this is way overdue. The average cost of a meal in the US is $2.41, which is 22% higher than maximum food stamp benefits, according to a recent Urban Institute report. In 2020, the maximum benefit did not cover the cost of a modestly priced meal in 96% of US counties. The revision, however, will reduce that figure to an estimated 21% of counties.

Despite these slight improvements, some advocates argue that more needs to be done. According to Lisa Davis, senior vice president at Share Our Strength, "The Thrifty Food Plan is still really the bare minimum. What is the least amount of money that a family that is struggling would have to have spend to have a healthy diet? It's not generous by any means. This is a really important towards SNAP benefit adequacy, but we're not all the way there yet.

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