US Makes Unprecedented Hike to Food Assistance Benefit

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The Balance

That’s how much the government is raising the average monthly food assistance benefit per person, saying the rising cost of healthy foods requires a first-of-its-kind overhaul of the subsidy. 

The average benefit will increase by 27%, from roughly $133 to $169, when the adjustment kicks in on Oct. 1, marking the first time the purchasing power of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has changed since it was first introduced in 1975, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) said Monday. The department analyzed food prices, diets and dietary standards and ultimately found that healthy eating cost 21% more than what the existing formula provided for. (The comparison excludes the temporary increases to SNAP benefits authorized by pandemic-era relief efforts.)

SNAP is the largest federal food assistance program, with more than 42 million—or one of every eight people—in the U.S. benefiting from it each month, the USDA said. The increase in payment is the result of a revamp mandated by Congress in 2018. Those enrolled in the program receive benefits each month on a card, which can be used to purchase most groceries.

The government credits SNAP with making a meaningful difference in food security, including among households with children more vulnerable during the pandemic downturn. The newly expanded child tax credit also appears to be having an impact. A Census Bureau survey released last week found that people who received the first round of monthly payments from the tax credit mostly commonly used the funds for food.

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