SNAP benefits to increase permanently

In a welcome move, the Biden administration has permanently increased the amount of support families get under SNAP. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that we used to call ‘food stamps’, and is meant to provide needy families with assistance to buy food.

The Biden administration has revised the nutrition standards of the food stamp program and prompted the largest permanent increase to benefits in the program’s history, a move that will give poor people more power to fill their grocery carts but add billions of dollars to the cost of a program that feeds one in eight Americans.

Under rules to be announced on Monday and put in place in October, average benefits will rise more than 25 percent from prepandemic levels. All 42 million people in the program will receive additional aid. The move does not require congressional approval, and unlike the large pandemic-era expansions, which are starting to expire, the changes are intended to last.

For at least a decade, critics of the benefits have said they were too low to provide an adequate diet. More than three-quarters of households exhaust their benefits in the first half of the monthly cycle, and researchers have linked subsequent food shortages to problems as diverse as increased hospital admissions, more school suspensions and lower SAT scores.

Under the new rules, average monthly benefits, $121 per person before the pandemic, will rise by $36. Although the increase may seem modest to middle-class families, proponents say it will reduce hunger, improve nutrition and lead to better health.

This will make Laura Ingraham and her ilk at Fox News angry because they have been arguing that we should go in the opposite direction and cut off supports for poor and unemployed people and thus create conditions that increase hunger so that people will be more willing to take on awful low paying jobs that do not provide enough to live on.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham and “Bar Rescue” host Jon Taffer aren’t happy that millions of Americans are using pandemic unemployment checks to avoid taking low-paying jobs out of desperation.

On Thursday night, the two criticized people who are using those checks as leverage to get better jobs and better salaries.

In the process of griping about the possibility of ― yikes! ― paying living wages to workers whose real wages have been stagnant for decades, Ingraham cruelly suggested, “What if we just cut off the unemployment?” before noting, “Hunger is a pretty powerful thing.”

So how did this happen in the current climate where the Republicans in the senate oppose increasing any assistance to the poor? Kevin Drum explains.

In 2018 Congress passed a law directing the USDA to review the minimum requirements for a healthy diet. They finished their review this year, and the result was a diet that cost more. Republicans are complaining that they thought they were voting for revenue neutrality back in 2018, but it’s too late for that now. The review is finished and Biden has all the authority he needs to implement its recommendations.

It’s worth noting that the average benefit in the chart above is per person. Under the new plan a family of four will receive an average benefit of about $600 per month and a maximum benefit of $835.

Is this increase a big deal? Not to you and me, probably, but to someone who’s already eating only six days a week because that’s all they can afford it sure is.

In short, Biden took advantage of authority he had been given to unilaterally provide a little extra cash to those who need it on a permanent basis.


  1. consciousness razor says

    They could do a lot better than that by making it easier for people to receive benefits and easier to figure out whether they even qualify. Like so many other programs, especially anti-poverty ones, because it’s a good thing that we want to encourage, they could simply stop doing so much to discourage it.

    And you can increase benefits too, of course. I have no problem with that. While we’re at it, taxes on food are dumb and should be banned everywhere. (For everyone, that is. No need to apply for anything, and it’s not means-tested, obviously.)

    The move does not require congressional approval, and unlike the large pandemic-era expansions, which are starting to expire, the changes are intended to last.

    Well, I’m sure their intention is to make sure Republican presidents will never be elected again, so that they wouldn’t be able to unilaterally undo a policy which didn’t require congressional approval in the first place. And when that doesn’t work out as intended, or when conservative courts decide presidents shouldn’t be able to do such things (because that’s always an option too), or when congress does whatever it wants to do, I suspect that it’s probably not quite as “permanent” as it’s being advertised.

  2. consciousness razor says

    Just to support what I was saying in #3, a report from 2016:

    Nationally, the SNAP participation rate among all eligible persons was 85 percent in FY 2016. The participation rate for eligible working poor individuals was significantly lower, at 75 percent. Participation rates for all eligible persons varied from state to state, ranging from a low of 56 percent to a high of 100 percent. Participation rate estimates for the working poor also varied widely across states. In no state was the rate for working poor people higher than the rate for all eligible people.

    It should be pointed out that the word “working” is there for a reason. It means you’ve met the very specific requirements of the program. Because of the ways we set these things up, some of the poorest folks can have the hardest time “proving” that they deserve any help at all.

    Lots of extra baggage there and definitely a perverse outcome, while offering little or no significant benefit. Are you really so worried about “undeserving” people who “cheat” and get too many food stamps? Why? And instead of reacting to that sort of worry by cutting off millions who do actually need help, you can make a better society where there aren’t so many people who’d have any compelling reason to do that sort of thing.

  3. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 Tabby Lavalamp
    Republicans aren’t going to be happy until they can get wages down to a competitive level with China.

    But China is doing its damnedest to get people out of abject poverty. The US seems to be going in the opposite direction.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Tabby Lavalamp @ # 1: Republicans aren’t going to be happy until they can get wages down to a competitive level with China.

    Aww, you sweet optimist, you misunderestimate them.

    They want to get US wages competitive with those of Haiti.

  5. Anthony Wavra says

    I’m 57 disabled unable to work. I started working when I was 14. I am very ill and the only way I can get by is on Snap-food stamps. I have been a Republican my whole life as a voter. I am white never got a hand out ,and my race should not matter. If you are healthy and working ,your lucky. The people who are preaching that government assistance is being abused and every extra dollar is going to bums and cheats reminder : We paid thousands of dollars in taxes ,like others who need help I need to survive.

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