SNAP changes were in the works for years
The increase to SNAP was driven by updates to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Thrifty Food Plan, which outlines how people can use their food stamp benefits to afford a nutritious, cost-effective and balanced diet.
A farm bill Congress passed in 2018 had given the USDA four years to update the plan to reflect current food prices, typical American eating habits, the latest dietary guidance and nutritional values.
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, permanent change to the program makes 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 receive an additional $36.24 per month, or $1.19 per day, the USDA says in a news release.
The goal is food assistance that goes further
“Too many of our fellow Americans struggle to afford healthy meals," says Stacy Dean, USDA 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 typically used up more than 75% of their benefits by the middle of each month, according to department data.
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 U.S. Census Bureau.
The boost in SNAP will have a broad, positive impact, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: "The additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way."
What to do 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 to get through the pandemic, expensive interest must be catching up with you by now. Manage your balances by rolling them into a single debt consolidation loan, which will slash the cost of your debt and help you 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.