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Inflation and food stamps in the USA

Even in an affordable year for food, the surge of prices created a big pocket of change. Federal statistics reveal food prices are increasing from coast to coast.

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The rising cost of groceries stands out, even in a year when prices have increased across the board. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index, the cost of groceries for home consumption in June rose 12.2% year over year.

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According to Supermarket News, that was the largest price hike in 43 years, and it was higher than the 9.1 percent inflation rate.

Those in the United States who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) have had a tough time of it this year due to the sharp increase in food prices. Although SNAP benefits are increased annually to account for inflation, the current fiscal year’s cost-of-living adjustment is calculated using prices from 2021, which are significantly lower than current prices.

The United States Department of Agriculture oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides financial assistance to low-income individuals and families so that they can afford to buy food. The USDA’s website states that the agency revises SNAP eligibility requirements, maximum monthly benefits, and deductions at the start of each fiscal year (which runs from October 1 to July 1). The adjustments are justified by rises or falls in what it costs to maintain a given level of subsistence.

According to the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan, the price of a market basket for a family of four can be estimated. The USDA calculates the TFP to be an approximation of the cost of feeding a family of four three meals a day at a reasonable price. In June of each year, this price is used to determine allocation caps. As a result, the CPI used to calculate the COLA for FY2023 will be that of June 2022.

The calculation accounts for economies of scale, so smaller households (with fewer members) receive more per person than larger ones (with more members). More than four people living in a home receives even less aid per person.

According to the law, a household’s gross monthly income cannot exceed 130% of the federal poverty level. As defined by the USDA, “gross income” refers to a family’s total, non-excluded income before taxes and other deductions are taken out. A monthly net income of no more than the federal poverty line is deemed to be ineligible. To calculate one’s net income, one must first subtract necessary expenses from their gross income.

USA Facts.org reports that annual SNAP benefit payments have decreased at an average rate of 6.5% from 2013-2019. Increases in COVID-19 aid contributed to a 32% increase in benefits between 2019 and 2020. Even though payments have gone up due to inflation over the past two fiscal years, they have not kept up with rising consumer prices.

For most Americans in fiscal year 2022, the maximum SNAP allotment is $835 per month for a household of four, $1,504 per month for a household of eight, and $188 per month for each additional member above eight. The maximum allocations for a family of four in fiscal year 2021 were $782, while the maximum allocation for a family of eight was $1,408 per month, with an additional $176 per month for each additional member.

Those numbers suggest that the maximum for a family of four will increase by about 6.8% in fiscal 2022 compared to fiscal 2021, which is far too little to keep up with the current rate of food inflation.

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Those living in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the Virgin Islands have higher maximum and minimum quotas than those living in the lower 48 states and DC.

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Written for GOBankingRates.com, where it was first published: Will Inflation Lead to a Raise in Food Stamps?