President Biden is expected to announce his largest-ever boost to the food stamp program this week, permanently boosting aid for the around 42 million Americans who are on the program.

The average benefit will reach $157 per person from $121, The NY Times said, citing an official in the administration. That translates to a boost of around 40 cents a meal. For a family of four people, the maximum benefit will go to $835 a month, up around 21% from the pre-pandemic limit.

The increase will happen on October 1.

The move is among the ways that Biden can increase financial help for Americans without Congressional backing. The Agriculture Dept. will increase payments through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by changing its list of foods that are needed for a healthy diet.

Biden’s increase concludes a process that started in his first days in office. In a late Jan. order, the president asked the USDA to look at the Thrifty Food Plan, which includes the foods that decide SNAP payments. The White House argued the plan did not accurately reflect households’ financial and nutritional needs.

The food plan was originally set to be changed by 2022, but the Biden executive order hastened that process and is now bringing higher benefits before this year is over.

The fiscal cliff

The announcement comes only weeks before greater SNAP benefits were going to lapse at the end of September. Last year, congress supported a 15% supplement to the program, and Biden’s move will offset that increase’s expiration and leave SNAP recipients with permanently bigger payments.

The Sept. deadline was a part of a larger set of expirations called the “fiscal cliff.” A range of pandemic-era programs were going to end in Sept., with Republicans saying that the economic recovery made these programs obsolete.

Some, such as the pause to student loan payments, were extended to avoid a too-fast pullback in federal support. Others, such as the eviction moratorium, were not re-upped and have caused concerns about reversing financial help while new virus cases are happening. The Biden White House renewed some sections of the eviction ban in a last-ditch drive in August, but legal battles are still brewing to cancel this extension.

Author: Scott Dowdy

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