USDA Misleads on “Increased SNAP Benefits”
Statement of CSPI Policy Associate Maya Sandalow
In a press release this morning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture claimed that it has increased monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by 40 percent. The agency’s message is misleading.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was enacted on March 18 and allows states to request USDA waivers to issue emergency SNAP benefits up to the maximum monthly amount (for up to two months). It does not increase that monthly amount. All states issued these emergency allotments.
However, 40 percent of SNAP households will see no SNAP increase because they were already receiving the maximum amount prior to the emergency declaration. These are the poorest households and most in need of expanded food assistance.
The message is particularly misleading at a moment when Congress is voting on a bill that fails to include an increase in benefits for the SNAP program. There is an urgent need for Congress to include a true SNAP expansion in the next stimulus package. Specifically, Congress needs to increase the maximum benefit by 15 percent, the minimum monthly benefit from $16 to $30, and suspend implementation of all administrative rules that restrict access. All three measures should last for as long as the economy is vulnerable.