Food-stamp aid up 40 percent since March, USDA announces

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Benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have increased 40 percent in the past month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Wednesday.

The increase comes as more than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past month, as lockdown measures issued by state governments shuttered most businesses. The spike in benefits for those already enrolled cost the program an additional $2 billion.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, SNAP typically cost the government around $4.5 billion per month.

“These are unprecedented times for American families who are facing joblessness and hunger. USDA is providing a 40 percent increase in SNAP benefits to ensure that low-income individuals have enough food to feed themselves and their families during this national emergency,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “President Trump is taking care of America’s working-class families who have been hit hard with economic distress due to the coronavirus. Ensuring all households receive the maximum allowable SNAP benefit is an important part of President Trump’s whole of America response to the coronavirus.”

Additionally, households that under previous circumstances would qualify for a reduced allotment will receive an emergency allotment supplement to bring them up to the maximum benefit for up to two months. Households of five with no income during the pandemic would receive an additional $240, to hit the maximum benefit of $768.

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Emergency allotments have now been authorized in all 50 states as of Wednesday.

As states lose tax revenue during the pandemic, some have called on the USDA to tighten SNAP requirements for college students, which the USDA denied earlier this month.

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Earlier this month, the Trump administration decided to hold off on pushing food stamp cuts, which would enact stricter work requirements for adults without children.

The White House had planned to appeal a court decision from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., which issued a temporary injunction on its work requirements rule that was set to take effect April 1. By the USDA’s estimates, the change would have led to nearly 700,000 people losing SNAP benefits.

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Congress, in one of its economic stabilization packages, then waived the work requirement for the duration of the national emergency.