Moving swiftly to address a growing hunger crisis, the Biden administration on Friday announced several new efforts to put more for on the tables of Americans who’ve been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under one new initiative, the administration is tapping its authority under the $900 million pandemic relief package that passed in December to boost funding for the pandemic EBT program by about 15%. This Department of Agriculture program will put a little more money into the pockets of low-income families in the form of a preloaded bank card to help feed millions of children who have been missing meals they normally would have received at school. Originally, the program limited benefits to $5.86 per child per school day. The limit will now rise to $6.74.
The Agriculture Department is also studying how it can increase the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefit (often called SNAP or food stamps) for all participants, but especially the lowest-income families. SNAP is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, which was serving 38 million people even before the pandemic hit, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The average SNAP household with children currently gets $390 a month.
The year-end relief package had already boosted SNAP benefits by 15%, but the new administration, which only launched on Wednesday, says that won’t be enough and pledged to work with state and local agencies, public and private, to find more money.
One in 5 Black and Latino families report food insecurity.
“As soon as the president took office, he called for immediate action on the hunger crisis gripping vulnerable families and children,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services. “The announcement today provides more food dollars directly to food insecure kids living in low-income households who are missing critical meals due to school closures.”
Perhaps anticipating criticism about the cost of raising the nutrition benefit, the administration argued that the money will not only help families that need the most help, but will also goose the economy. It cited a recent USDA finding that every dollar in new SNAP benefits would increase economic activity by $1.54, not to mention shrink the poverty rate.
Biden is also calling on Congress to look for creative ways to support restaurants, which are seen as a “critical link” in the food supply chain and to provide U.S. territories with $1 billion in additional nutrition assistance funding.