Oklahoma families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits stand to receive 25% more than they did before the pandemic starting in October thanks to action by the Biden administration.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reviewed the underlying numbers that determine SNAP benefits, resulting in the largest benefit increase in program history. The roughly 600,000 Oklahomans who get SNAP benefits in a given year will soon receive $1.62 per person per meal, up from $1.30.
Hunger Free Oklahoma Executive Director Chris Bernard said that will ease some of the strain food banks and charitable organizations have felt over the past year.
"It is not a radical shift. It's a fairly modest increase, and it's one that purely brings the benefit level to what is an acceptable level in modern times," Bernard said.
Bernard said the increase in benefits means not only will families will be able to afford more healthy food, but also an additional $260 million will be spent in local grocery stores.
"In a time where there's some economic crisis, that is economic stimulus in local communities keeping local businesses open," Bernard said.
A temporary 15% increase to SNAP benefits because of the COVID-19 pandemic expires next month, but the increase that begins in October is permanent.
Bernard said there are other pandemic adjustments to the program that he’d like to see be made permanent, like letting schools and care organizations give kids meals to go and giving families additional benefits in the summer to buy food rather than making them go to a meal site.