Latest COVID Relief Bill Increases SNAP Benefits Temporarily and Extends P-EBT Program to Young Children
December 22, 2020
By Katherine Ungar, JD, Policy Associate
As I wrote about here and here, the pandemic has numerous consequences—perhaps the most dire of them– hunger. Many families are faced with making the impossible decision of paying rent or buying enough food to feed the family. Around 13% of Americans (27.4 million people) reported they “sometimes or often do not have enough to eat” on a weekly basis, according to the latest Household Pulse Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Dec. 16. This includes 14 million households with children reporting that they do not have enough to eat. That is why we have repeatedly called on Congress to include a SNAP boost in their next relief package. Finally, Congress has acted.
After several months awaiting relief, Congress has agreed upon a $900 billion stimulus package. According to several news reports and a summary of the legislation, the package is expected to include $13 billion in increased benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other child nutrition benefits.
Additionally, the bill will boost SNAP benefits by 15% for six months (January- June) for all participants. This boost in SNAP benefits will bring additional funding to those families in the lowest income bracket who were unable to receive the emergency allotments provided for in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act because those SNAP benefits were not extended to those families that were already receiving the maximum allotment. This left out nearly 40 percent of SNAP households, many of which are the lowest income and have the most difficulty affording food. More than 5 million children reside in these households and have received no additional SNAP benefits during the crisis. We applaud Congress for recognizing the need to boost SNAP benefits for families.
Not only does the SNAP increase support children and families, but also stimulates our economy. Evidence from the Great Recession demonstrates the effect of higher SNAP benefits on lessening food insecurity among SNAP households and economists rate SNAP as among the fastest and most effective options for economic stimulus and recovery.
Standard SNAP benefits are too low to adequately feed many families and almost half of families use their monthly allotments within the first few weeks of the month. With the current rise of unemployment and other additional hardships, families’ food budgets are being stretched. An increase in SNAP benefits will not only provide relief for families and children, but will also result in an economic stimulus as these dollars are spent at Ohio retailers and grocery stores
Among other things, the package is also reported to provide funding to food banks and seniors and include children under 6 in the Pandemic-EBT program.
We must do everything we can to ensure our children do not go hungry and receive the nutrition support they need during the public health emergency and beyond. Preventing childhood hunger must be at the top of the priority list and we are pleased to see Congress take action.