End of Pandemic-Related SNAP Benefits Blunts Impact of October Increase in SNAP
by Lisa Pearlstein, Esq. October 13, 2021
Lisa Pearlstein directs the City Bar Justice Center’s Legal Clinic for the Homeless.
Beginning in October 2021, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, will see a modest increase in benefits. The Biden Administration revised the Thrifty Food Plan, which is used to set the SNAP benefit amounts that recipients receive monthly. The revision represents a permanent boost to pre-pandemic SNAP benefit levels that aims to enable participating families to buy healthier food.
The revised plan will provide an extra $12 to $16 per person per month. This amounts to a 21% boost from the prior plan. In its reevaluation and revision of the Thrifty Food Plan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) considered current food costs, the typical American diet, dietary guidance, and nutrients in food items. USDA research concluded that SNAP benefit levels did not provide for a healthy diet even with households adding their own funds to purchase food. The new plan aims to enable recipients to purchase healthy food such as fish and vegetables.
While the October 2021 change to the Thrifty Food Plan will permanently increase regular SNAP benefit amounts above pre-pandemic levels, SNAP benefits will actually decrease for most households when the government terminates the temporary pandemic-related SNAP benefits, called “Emergency Allotments,” by the end of the year. The Emergency Allotments significantly boosted SNAP benefits and helped struggling individuals afford food and parents feed their children during the pandemic. Households will experience a reduction of at least $95, and more for some individuals and families, when the pandemic food allotment benefit ends.
Legal Clinic for the Homeless (LCH) staff heard from clients about the huge difference the pandemic-related SNAP benefits made in the lives of families residing in shelters.
When asked about the extra SNAP benefits she received during the pandemic, Ms. A, mother of two school-aged children, told LCH Director Lisa Pearlstein, “Food in New York City is so expensive. Finally I can buy my kids fruit and other food that’s good for them every week and not have to worry that I will run out of money by the end of the month. I don’t know what I am going to do when they take this money away.”
While the USDA should be commended for increasing amounts in the Thrifty Food Plan, which had not been increased in years, the government should permanently increase SNAP benefits to levels set during the pandemic to realistically enable people across the country to purchase healthy food. Healthier and more balanced diets keep health care costs down and contribute to the overall well-being of our community. Further, access to such critical benefits can have an impact in our efforts to help individuals and families experiencing poverty combat hunger and food insecurity.
This communication is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. Because all legal problems involve their own specific set of facts, this informational resource is not and should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice. This informational resource also is not intended to create, and its receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Please contact competent, independent legal counsel for an assessment of your particular legal concerns, or contact our Legal Hotline (212.626.7383 or https://www.citybarjusticecenter.org/legal-hotline/) to determine whether you qualify for assistance from the City Bar Justice Center.
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