Biden Orders Quick Action on Hunger

Andrea Sears | Public News Service
Families whose children normally get free meals at school can expect to see a 15% increase in Pandemic EBT benefits. Photo Credit: David Veksler / Unsplash

NEW YORK — Many New Yorkers receiving SNAP and Pandemic EBT will soon get increases in their benefits.

An estimated 29 million adults and at least eight million children nationwide are experiencing food insecurity because of the pandemic.

On Friday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the Agriculture Department to allow states to increase SNAP benefits to the lowest-income recipients, and to raise emergency benefits for families whose children would normally be getting free meals at school by 15%.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, said the order should benefit at least three million New Yorkers.

“This is the boldest, biggest administrative step to fight hunger that any administration has taken, really, in the modern era, at least since the Great Society program,” Berg contended.

The White House said a 15% increase in Pandemic EBT benefits could give a family of three about $105 more to buy food over two months.

The order could mean a 15% to 20% increase in SNAP benefits to about 12 million of the lowest-income recipients.

Berg predicted the overall impact of the increased benefits will be huge.

“This is going to benefit tens of millions of American families, and be billions of dollars extra food – and maybe even tens of billions of dollars of extra food – when this all works out,” Berg explained.

The president will also ask Congress for a $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package which includes other kinds of direct aid for people who have lost jobs in the pandemic.

But a large relief bill will take time to negotiate and get through both the U.S. House and Senate.

Berg pointed out Friday’s executive order was signed in the first 48 hours of the new administration.

“I think in some cases, people will be getting this massive bump in food over just the course of a few weeks,” Berg noted. “So, this proves that government, properly managed, can not only act big, but can act quickly.”

He added expanding access to food will decrease malnutrition and strengthen people’s immune systems, with the benefit of reducing both COVID-19 infection rates and deaths.