Food stamp recipients are set to receive a 25-plus percent increase in benefits starting in October.
This decision by the Biden administration, which does not require approval from Congress, marks the largest permanent increase in the history of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which currently costs the taxpayer about $80 billion per year.
The average monthly per-person benefit will increase from the pre-pandemic amount of $121 to $157. There are 42 million Americans on food stamps.
As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was reportedly vested with the authority to increase the benefits as part of an initiative called the Thrifty Food Plan, a metric which the feds use to determine the price tag for a supposed healthy diet for a family of four under a list of 24 food groups.
Pursuant to the law, the TFP — which was last updated in 2006 — was due for reevaluation no later than next year but the Biden team wanted the process speeded up. According to the Ag Department, the TFP revaluation “is based on four factors: the cost of food, nutrients in food, nutrition guidance, and what Americans eat.”
The SNAP benefits boost also comes at a time when employers are struggling to find workers because many potential employees are making more money staying home and collecting enhanced unemployment checks via the COVID-19 relief bill.
Although the money is meant for needy families, and obviously some low-income households need assistance in paying for groceries, fraud has beleaguered the food stamp program throughout its history. Funds are distributed to beneficiaries through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The New York Times that it’s about the science, as it always is with Democrats, with a side order of democracy.
“In an interview last week…Vilsack, simultaneously described the work as a technical exercise in nutrition science and a reflection of the forces reshaping the politics of the safety net. In the middle of disease, hardship and racial disparities, he said, the $79 billion annual cost of the program helps ‘stabilize our democracy.’
“‘We may have a Constitution and a Declaration of Independence, but if we had 42 million Americans who were going hungry, really hungry, they wouldn’t be happy and there would be political instability,’ Mr. Vilsack said.”
Under the administration of President Donald Trump, more than six million individuals left the food stamp program and, in so doing, ended their dependency on SNAP benefits, owing to certain program changes and a then-decline in the unemployment rate.
The benefits are, by definition, supposed to be supplemental.
“Critics say that the costs are unsustainable and that the aid erodes Americans’ willingness to work. The new plan will raise the program’s costs by about $20 billion a year from pre-pandemic levels…Opponents of a benefit increase say the program is meant to supply only part, not all, of a household’s diet…They also say the aid would last longer if the needy spent it better, citing research showing nearly 10 percent goes to sweetened drinks,” the Times added.
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