(The Center Square) – The cost of food stamps jumped 5.3% to $7.5 billion in August, the highest amount since March when federal pandemic assistance ended.
The cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, had been decreasing. The federal SNAP program costs went from $11.01 billion in December 2022 to $7.14 billion as of July 2023 as states ended emergency benefits put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that the August data was preliminary, but the increase may be due to disaster benefits states offer.
The number of people on food stamps nationally increased from 41.3 million in July to 41.8 million in August.
A SNAP spokeswoman said in an email to The Center Square that there are three types of disaster benefits that could impact SNAP benefit amounts from month to month.
SNAP gives out “early issuance” benefits that allows SNAP households to prepare for a natural disaster by receiving their benefits earlier than usual.
SNAP also provides replacement benefits for regular food stamp recipients who have their food lost during a disaster. The food assistance program also may grant temporary benefits to people who suddenly need assistance due to a disaster.
For example, the state of Michigan in August approved replacement food assistance for residents impacted by a storm that knocked out the power in a 10-county area in southeast Michigan. The amount of the replacement for food lost during the outage was equal to up to one month’s food assistance benefits. The average person on food stamps nationally received $180 a month in August.