SNAP benefits still above historical norms

A chart showing the monthly SNAP benefits amount, years 2000 to 2011.

Historically, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are adjusted each October to maintain purchasing power based on food prices for the previous June. These benefit adjustments have been put on hold since April 2009, when Congress enacted a temporary 13.6 percent increase in the maximum SNAP benefit, or about $80 a month for a family of four. Households with little or no income receive the maximum; others receive less based on their incomes and expenses. On average, SNAP households saw a $46 increase in their monthly benefits. By design, the benefit increases were intended to be phased out as rising food prices erode their purchasing power. As of June 2011, the maximum benefit for a four-person household had declined by 4.5 percent ($30) in real (inflation-adjusted) terms from its April 2009 level and that of the average household by 8.1 percent ($25). This chart appeared in "What's Behind the Rise in SNAP Participation?" in the March 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

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