Those receiving SNAP benefits could soon get more money after average benefits go up this month by more than 25% above pre-pandemic levels.
The program and those extra dollars will make a big difference in families' access to healthier food options, which tend to cost more.
"It was hard," said Amber Goerler, who receives SNAP benefits. "You know, trying to measure out what to get for your family and everything. It just ain't enough."
Before the pandemic, Goerler received $430 in SNAP benefits each month to feed a household of six people. The Freestore Food Bank has helped her supplement where the funds have fallen short.
"I have a 6-year-old and she eats and eats and eats," said Goerler.
The increase in benefits will be the largest single permanent increase to SNAP benefits in the program's history. It's projected to cost an extra $20 billion in federal funds each year.
The amount that benefits would increase was determined after calculations were made to determine the cost of a healthy diet.
"What we are seeing is that people were making everyday life decisions every time they went to the grocery store, and it was, 'Do I buy more nutritious food that seemed to be a little bit higher? Or junk food that we can kind of spread out?'" said Kam McKenzie, manager of Freestore Foodbank's SNAP program.
On average, an individual will receive an extra $16 per month. For a household of eight people, however, it's an increase of $96.
According to the Freestore Foodbank, one in seven households in the Tri-State area is facing food insecurity.
"Since COVID, that showed us that hardworking Americans, that we're going to work hard every single day and have the rug pulled out of them with COVID," said McKenzie. "SNAP has helped so many people to be able to just sustain their livelihoods."
The increases are automatic, so anyone receiving the benefits will not have to take any additional steps to get the extra funds. Goerler said the increase means she'll be able to buy more vegetables and fruit for her kids, who love them.
"It'll help feed my family," said Goerler. "Because I'll have extra, you know, so I could pay my bills, because I still take money out of our pockets to get food and stuff I need to provide for my family."