SNAP benefits are increasing. Here’s what to know

By Kate Davidson (OPB)
Oct. 1, 2021 10:43 p.m.

It’s the first permanent boost to the buying power of food stamps since the 1970s.

Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians will get a permanent increase in federal nutrition assistance, starting this month.

Monthly benefits should rise by an average of $36 per person over pre-pandemic levels. That’s about $1.20 more per day.

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The boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has long been sought by advocates for low-income families, who argued the benefits were too low to meet the real cost of healthy food.

Until now, the purchase power of SNAP benefits hadn’t grown since the 1970s.

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“This is my 25th year in food banking,” said Susannah Morgan, CEO of the Oregon Food Bank. “I’ve been working on trying to make this change for 25 years. This year, it happened. This is really exciting.”

The benefits expansion stems from the federal government’s modernization of its Thrifty Food Plan. The change is expected to increase annual SNAP benefits by $337 million in Oregon and $410 million in Washington.

While people who use SNAP may see modest increases to their benefits, Morgan described their impact as “huge.”

“That may play out as $20 or $40,” she said, “but $20 or $40 can make the difference into whether you can get the foods you’re really sure your kids will eat.”

The new, permanent SNAP boost kicked in Oct. 1, just after a 15% pandemic boost expired at the end of September.

Most Oregonians who get SNAP will continue to benefit from an additional pandemic measure — at least for October. About 408,000 households should continue receiving emergency allotments of SNAP this month, according to Jake Sunderland, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Human Services.

That means those households will receive the maximum SNAP payment allowable, even if they would normally qualify for less. Sunderland said the emergency allotments, which are approved on a month-to-month basis, would provide an extra $64 million in food assistance to Oregonians this month.

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