Biden administration eyeing long-term increase in food stamps: report
The Biden administration is reportedly looking into increasing long-term food aid for millions of households, building on the temporary expanded benefits that were included as part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
Bloomberg reports that the administration is exploring this expansion through a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) instrument called the market basket. The news outlet notes that the market basket, a group of products chosen to track the performance of a market segment, has not been increased, other than for inflation, in 60 years.
“This is really meaningful,” said Jason Furman, a Harvard University economist, told Bloomberg. “It’s one of the bigger things government can do for poverty without Congress.”
Anti-hunger advocates have argued that the current $22-a-day food budget is inadequate and outdated, and set up on unrealistic assumptions, such as that a family eats over five pounds of beans a week. The food plan from the Food and Drug Administration, for example, assumes two hours are spent each day preparing meals from scratch. Bloomberg notes that American families spend about half an hour on food preparation on average.
Bloomberg reported that President Biden ordered a review of the Thrifty Food Plan two days after he took office. This review could trigger an automatic increase in benefits by Oct. 1, when the temporary boost in benefits included in the stimulus plan is expected to end.
According to James Ziliak, director of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky, a 20 percent increase in benefits, or a $136-a-month increase in maximum benefits for a family of four, is possible.
Senior USDA official Stacy Dean, who is leading the review, told Bloomberg that the examination is not required to be cost-neutral. She did not provide an expected timeline for the review.
“A core goal of the secretary is to assure nutrition security, not just food security,” Dean told the outlet. “We want to make sure the benefits we are providing really and truly can support a nutritious and healthy diet.”