SNAP increase was a long time coming
The increase to SNAP was prompted by a farm bill Congress passed in 2018 that called for updating the program to reflect current food prices, typical American eating habits, the latest dietary guidance and nutritional values.
“Too many of our fellow Americans struggle to afford healthy meals," says Stacy Dean, U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. "The revised plan is one step toward getting them the support they need to feed their families."
SNAP households have often used up more than 75% of their benefits by the middle of each month, according to USDA data.
Food stamps were expanded last year for the COVID pandemic, but that was a temporary measure to help carry families through the worst of the crisis.
The new, typical monthly benefit
Now, the permanent change to the program is making a substantial increase in benefits from their pre-pandemic levels and is designed to help users include more fish and red and orange vegetables in their diets.
On average, each recipient will now get an additional $36.24 per month, or $1.19 per day, the USDA says in a news release. The typical monthly benefit is rising from roughly $121 to $157.
Officials expect that the beefed-up benefits, along with the "family stimulus checks" from this year's expanded child tax credit, will mean fewer families running out of their benefits quickly or being unable to afford necessities.
The child credit payments are already having an effect. The first checks in July coincided with a 3% drop in households with children experiencing food scarcity, according to the Census Bureau.
What if you can't get food stamps?
If you don’t qualify for SNAP but are struggling to get by, here are a few ways you might carve out more room in your budget.
Deal with your debt. If you’ve been relying on credit cards during the pandemic, expensive interest must be catching up with you by now. Manage your balances by rolling them into a single debt consolidation loan, to slash the cost of your debt and pay it off faster.
Cut your insurance costs. If you haven’t shopped around for a better rate on your auto insurance lately, you might easily be overpaying by hundreds of dollars a year. A little comparison will help you find a better rate. The same strategy also works well for scoring a lower price for homeowners insurance.
Make every penny count. When you order online to stock up on essentials, use a free browser extension that will automatically scour the internet for better prices and coupons.
Turn your pennies into a portfolio. Don't assume that investing is too expensive or intimidating. A popular app will allow you to earn returns in today’s red-hot stock market merely by investing your "spare change" from everyday purchases.