The Biden Administration on Monday, August 16, approved a record increase in food benefits of its nutritional welfare program that has helped provide nutritional access for millions of poor Americans across the country.
On October 1, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will increase by an average of 25 percent above pre-pandemic levels. The increase could impact as many as 42 million struggling Americans. The move will be the largest increase since SNAP began in 1975.
“Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs and more,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the updated benefits formula is based on current food prices and what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance and the nutrients in food items.
In a study last June, the government found that 88 percent of SNAP recipients were struggling to achieve a healthy diet.
The average benefit was $121 before the coronavirus pandemic began. That will increase by $36.24 a month under the new policy, according to the USDA.
The increase is in stark contrast to the Trump Administration, which in 2020 proposed to cut the SNAP program by more than $180 billion or 30 percent.
That proposal threatened to take away SNAP benefits from millions of adults who are not working more than 20 hours a week and reducing benefits for many other households.
In its June study, USDA officials said they were driven by the latest available data on the four key factors identified in the 2018 Farm Bill: current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance, and the nutrients in food items.
The revised plan includes more fish and red and orange vegetables to align with recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.
Additionally, the plan was calculated using updated purchasing data – collected from stores versus self-reported by households – to reflect the current price of foods in today’s marketplace.
The revised Thrifty Food Plan also includes a modest increase in calories to reflect the latest data and support an active lifestyle.
“To set SNAP families up for success, we need a Thrifty Food Plan that supports current dietary guidance on a budget,” said Stacy Dean, Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “Too many of our fellow Americans struggle to afford healthy meals. The revised plan is one step toward getting them the support they need to feed their families.”
During the pandemic, all SNAP recipients got a 15-percent boost to their benefits, but that additional aid expires at the end of September.
As the economy improves while cities reopen, 10 percent of U.S. households continue to report not having enough food to eat, including 17 percent of Black families. Formerly known as Food Stamps, SNAP helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health. Most households with low income can receive SNAP benefits. Benefits are provided on the Illinois Link Card, an electronic card that is accepted at most grocery stores.
The program is managed by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture. The Department of Human Services administers the program in Illinois. In Indiana, residents use an electronic benefits transfer card. Known simply as an EBT card, it’s similar to an Illinois Link Card and works like a debit or credit card but is loaded with food stamps and/or cash benefits.
In Illinois residents have the option to apply for the SNAP benefits through the Illinois Department of Human Services by phone at 2-833-2-FIND- HELP (1-822-234-6343) or online at https://abe.illinois.gov/abe/access/. If a resident would prefer to apply in person or by mail, it is suggested they download a paper application and submit the completed application to a local Family Community Resource Center. A list of resource centers can be found online at dhs.state.il.us.