President Biden signs executive order to increase federal food benefits and expedite stimulus checks

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Key Takeaways

On January 22, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) that expands and extends federal nutrition assistance programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to aid families and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also aims to provide equitable emergency relief by ensuring the delivery of direct stimulus payments, expanding unemployment eligibilities and simplifying the federal benefits process. Counties have played a critical role in providing food assistance and other anti-poverty supports in cooperation with our federal and state partners, especially in the 10 states where counties are responsible for administering the SNAP program. This EO will increase federal resources for those efforts in the near term as Congressional negotiations over the President’s proposed relief package continue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a drastic increase in household food insecurity in the United States and vulnerable children and families have faced new obstacles in accessing consistent, healthy meals.  In a win for counties and our residents, Congress in December bolstered emergency food assistance for COVID-19.  President Biden’s EO builds on those provisions by directing USDA to apply that legislation’s temporary 15 percent SNAP benefit increase to the Pandemic-EBT program, which offers SNAP benefits to low-income students who have lost access to school meals due to the pandemic. 

Additionally, the EO asks USDA to explore options for making very low-income households eligible for SNAP emergency allotments even if they are already receiving the maximum monthly benefit.  Such a step could mean an additional 12 million people receive enhanced SNAP benefits during the pandemic, which would further relieve pressure on county social service systems and local food banks.  To increase the effectiveness of the SNAP program in the long-term, the EO also asks the USDA to update the underlying SNAP benefit formula to better reflect the modern cost of a healthy basic diet. Counties support increasing the value of the monthly SNAP benefit.

In addition to the extension of SNAP benefits, President Biden’s executive order asks the Department of Treasury to expand and improve delivery of Economic Impact Payments including establishing online tools for claiming payments and working to make sure that those who have not yet accessed their funds get the relief they deserve.

Counties applaud federal efforts to support and protect our most vulnerable residents as we continue to grapple with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. NACo supports additional state and local aid in future relief packages and will continue to monitor developments in nutrition and anti-poverty programs. To learn more about how county governments can prevent food insecurity, register for the NACo’s Feburary 5th webinar, Fighting Food Insecurity During COVID-19 and Beyond: Updates for County Leaders.

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