The USDA has re-evaluated the TFP (Thrifty Food Plan) and has decided to increase the food stamp benefits. According to many anti-hunger advocates, this was long due. People wonder when the benefits start and if they will get extra food stamps for October.
In August, the Biden administration approved the largest increase in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits since the program started in 1975.
What is the SNAP program?
SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is a nutritional assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It provides benefits to supplement the food budget to needy families. Currently, about 42 million Americans receive food stamps. The amount of SNAP benefits a family receives depends on its income and certain expenses.
To be eligible for SNAP benefits, a household needs to meet these three tests:
- The household’s gross monthly income must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line.
- The household’s net income must be at or below the poverty line.
- Households without an elderly member or a member who has a disability must have assets of $2,500 or less, and households with such a member must have assets of $3,750 or less.
USDA approves highest ever increase in SNAP benefits
The TFP is used to determine SNAP benefits. Recently, the USDA re-evaluated the plan and announced a permanent increase in SNAP benefits from fiscal 2022 (beginning October 1, 2021). The USDA looked at four major items to suggest the hike—current food prices, what Americans usually eat, dietary guidance, and the nutrients in those foods.
The budget for TFP was developed in the 1960s considering a nutritionally adequate diet. Since then, the budget’s purchasing power hasn't changed. For years, many people have argued that TFP underestimates the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet. The current hike reflects people’s nutritional needs and food preparation time. While SNAP benefits usually increase by nearly 1 percent per year, starting on Oct. 1, they will rise by 15 percent, which comes out to be about $36 per month per family.
The rise in SNAP benefits was long overdue
The long-overdue update has raised the maximum SNAP benefits by 25 percent, which represents the single largest permanent increase in SNAP benefits. However, eligible households will see a smaller immediate rise starting in October. A temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits directed by the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan (established in the December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill) expired at the end of September. Most SNAP households’ benefits will only rise modestly in October.
Will people get extra food stamps for October?
The increase in SNAP benefits is on the base rate and not on top of the current emergency COVID-19 pandemic rates. The new maximum monthly allotments by household size, effective Oct. 1, are:
- 1 member: $250
- 2 members: $459
- 3 members: $658
- 4 members: $835
- 5 members: $992
- 6 members: $1,190
- 7 members: $1,316
- 8 members: $1,504
- Each additional person adds $188
While most households will see a rise in their benefits starting in October 2021, the timing will depend on each state’s payment schedule and method. For example, Vermont distributes SNAP benefits on the first of each month. This means that recipients won't see an increase until Nov.1. Most of the other states send payments in batches throughout the month.
Since more than 90 percent of the SNAP benefits reach households at or below the poverty line, it helps reduce poverty, alleviate hunger, and strengthen the overall economy. With the current re-evaluation, it's expected to benefit people even more.