President Biden put an end to a Trump administration initiative that sought to kick three million people off food stamps, a proposal that would have deprived nearly one million children of free school meals.
The previous administration and Republicans pushed for the change in 2019, claiming some Americans were taking advantage of a “loophole” that permits those with incomes higher than the poverty rate to gain entry into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). But while the pandemic began to hit the nation hard last year, sending unemployment claims to record heights, Trump still wanted to toss the hungry off of the program’s rolls. His efforts, however, were blocked by a U.S. district court ruling.
The Department of Agriculture said in a statement on Wednesday, that their decision to end the Trump administration’s proposal came after receiving nearly 158,000 comments expressing concerns the initiative could “potentially jeopardize food security for children, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly.”
“The Department agrees with the issues raised by many commenters and no longer believes that the limitations the proposed rule would have put on categorical eligibility are appropriate,” the USDA said.
The anti-hunger non-profit organization FRAC released a statement applauding the change, saying that the move “preserves SNAP benefits for more than three million in low-income families working their way up the economic ladder and ensures a direct connection to free school meals for the children in their households.”
In March, the USDA announced a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through September of this year, which will provide an estimated $3.5 billion to households experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic. That will equate to $27 more per person per month in benefits or more than $100 in additional funds per month for a household of four.
Covid-19 has exacerbated the nation’s hunger crisis. At the height of the pandemic, cars would line up for miles to access food banks, which quickly exhausted their supply. As of February 2021, the number of SNAP recipients had increased 14 percent from the prior year, with 42 million people receiving benefits.