Published: April 2020

Publisher: Healthy Eating Research

Authors: Bleich S, Dunn C, Fleischhacker S

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With unemployment currently at a record high as a result of COVID-19, participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is expected to increase significantly. Congress has already passed three COVID-19 aid bills, which include SNAP provisions such as funding for emergency benefits for SNAP households and program administrative flexibilities. This issue brief that reviews the evidence on the impact of increased SNAP benefits on the economy and on SNAP households in the context of the current SNAP benefit allotment. It also discusses the SNAP provisions in the three congressional COVID-19 aid bills that have been already been enacted. Findings from this review of the evidence include: increased SNAP expenditures effectively boost and stabilize the economy; larger SNAP benefits reduce poverty and food insecurity, and increase food spending; current SNAP benefits are inadequate to cover a households’ food costs; and SNAP benefit inadequacy has negative implications for health and education. These findings highlight the current inadequacy of SNAP benefits, which is likely amplified as a result of COVID-19, as well as the evidence that increasing SNAP benefits is a proven policy approach to stimulate the economy.

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