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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has approved a significant and permanent increase in the levels of food stamp assistance available to needy families — the largest single increase in the program’s history.
Starting in October, average benefits for food stamps (officially known as the SNAP program) will rise more than 25% above pre-pandemic levels. The increased assistance will be available indefinitely to all 42 million SNAP beneficiaries.
The aid boost was first reported by The New York Times and the details were confirmed by a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture. They will be formally announced Monday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The aid boost is being packaged as a major revision of the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan. In concrete terms, the average monthly per-person benefits will rise from $121 to $157.
The increase is part of a multi-pronged Biden administration effort to strengthen the country’s social safety net. Poverty and food security activists maintain that longstanding inadequacies in that safety net were laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting an opportunity to make generational improvements that reach beyond the current public health crisis.
Activists say the previous levels of pre-pandemic SNAP assistance simply weren’t enough, forcing many households to choose cheaper, less nutritious options or simply go hungry as the funds ran low toward the end of the month.