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Big Boost to SNAP Benefits Goes Into Effect in October

Food aid program is critical for many low-income older adults

a sample e b t snap benefits charge card

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

En español | Older adults who use federal benefits to help pay for food will soon be able to afford a healthier diet. A major change to the formula used to calculate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits means that many recipients will see a sizable boost in that monthly stipend.

Starting in October, the largest benefit a one-person household could receive will be $250 per month (or $8.22 per day), up from a current maximum of $204 a month ($6.70 a day), excluding any of the temporary increases to benefits enacted as pandemic economic relief. In 2019, nearly one-third of SNAP households with at least one adult age 50 or older received the maximum benefit, according to AARP research.


SNAP recipients will not need to take any additional steps to receive the increased benefits. Their monthly benefits automatically will be recalculated using the new guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA manages the SNAP program, which was previously known as food stamps. Since 1975, the USDA has used a formula known as the Thrifty Foods Program (TFP) to figure out how much a typical person or family would need to pay in order to eat a nutritious diet daily. 

But while the TFP formula hasn’t been updated in more than 40 years, the ways that Americans live — and eat — have changed significantly. Following an executive order from the Biden Administration in January, the USDA launched a review of the TFP. That review determined that the current cost of a nutritious diet was 21 percent higher than the TFP allowed for in SNAP benefits. As a result, the USDA will increase the average monthly SNAP benefit by roughly 25 percent, an average increase of $36.24 per person, or $1.19 per day.
 

New Maximum SNAP Benefits for 48 States & DC*
Household size

48 States and D.C.

1 $250
2 $459
3 $658
4 $835

* Increased benefits start in October 2021. Residents of Alaska and Hawaii will receive new maximums that are higher than what is show in this table. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

“A modernized Thrifty Food Plan is more than a commitment to good nutrition — it’s an investment in our nation’s health, economy and security,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, announcing the revisions to the program. “Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs and more.

More than 8.7 million low-income households that receive SNAP benefits include at least one adult age 50 or older, according to AARP Public Policy Institute research. In June, AARP sent a letter to the USDA urging the agency to revise the TFP guidelines, noting that SNAP benefits are particularly important for lower-income older adults who also often face employment challenges, live on fixed incomes or live alone. AARP noted that food insecure, older Americans often are forced to make tough decisions — sacrificing their food budget to pay for other necessities, such as rent or other housing costs, transportation or medical bills. AARP Foundation research and surveys of older SNAP recipients found many of them were struggling to afford a nutritious diet, which can exacerbate illnesses such as diabetes.

Updating the TFP guidelines “is an important step toward putting a healthy diet within reach for millions of older adults, which is critical for being able to maintain health, quality of life and independence as we age,” AARP Senior Legislative Representative Nicole Burda said about the USDA’s announcement of the new TFP guidelines.

Kenneth Terrell covers employment, age discrimination, work and jobs, careers and the federal government for AARP. He previously worked for the Education Writers Association and U.S. News & World Report, where he reported on government and politics, business, education, science and technology and lifestyle news.

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