BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana families who receive food stamps will see their benefits increase by an average of $36 per person each month starting in October after President Joe Biden’s administration approved a permanent increase in the levels of food aid available to needy families.
Average benefits for food stamps — officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — will rise significantly above pre-pandemic levels, the largest single increase in the program’s history.
U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, a Democrat whose New Orleans-based district has some of the highest numbers of food stamp recipients across the country, told The Advocate that the food stamp boost is “a gamechanger in the battle against hunger and poverty.”
“The pandemic has made a bad situation even worse, and these expanded SNAP benefits show a long overdue realignment that more accurately reflects the cost of groceries and will help more working families get healthy food on the table,” Carter told the newspaper.
The benefit rates had been previously adjusted for inflation, but the federal government now is adjusting the base formula.
The U.S. Farm Bill approved by Congress in 2018 directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update the plan. Biden issued an executive order on Jan. 22 ordering the department to complete the work. The change will increase the $60 billion federal budget for food stamps by about $20 billion.
Nearly 849,000 people in Louisiana — about 1 in 5 state residents — receive food stamps.
They are currently receiving about 15% more in benefits than before the coronavirus outbreak. But that extra money expires in September. The new USDA rules will amount to about 23% more than what was paid before the pandemic began when the changes start Oct. 1, The Advocate reports.
Beginning in October, a Louisiana family of four with a household income of $2,871 per month – about $34,500 per year – the monthly food stamp allotment will rise from $680 to $835 per month, according to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
The extra money allows families to buy more expensive fresh vegetables and fruits rather than rely on cheaper processed foods, said Danny Mintz, of the Louisiana Budget Project, a left-leaning organization that advocates for low- and moderate-income people.
“I think of this as less of an expansion and more of the USDA getting closer to adequate amount for households to buy more nutritious meals,” Mintz said.