The Biden administration approved on Monday the biggest boost to food assistance benefits in the history of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a reform that could impact as many as 42 million Americans.
Starting in October, SNAP benefits will increase by an average of 25% above pre-pandemic levels. That will be the first time the purchasing power of the aid has changed since the program’s creation 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.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the updated benefits formula is based on current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance and the nutrients in food items. A study by the government in June found that 88% of SNAP recipients were struggling to achieve a healthy diet.
The average benefit, which was $121 before Covid, will increase by $36 a month under the new policy, according to the USDA.
During the pandemic, all SNAP recipients got a 15% boost to their benefits, but that additional aid expires at the end of September.
Even as the economy improves from the worst of the pandemic, 10% of U.S. households continue to report not having enough food to eat, including 17% of Black families.