During a briefing at the White House on January 22, President Biden announced a COVID Economic Relief Executive Order (EO) to help American families and businesses affected by the current pandemic. This EO comes a few short days after the President unveiled the American Rescue Plan—a proposal that Congress must vote on.
The COVID Economic Relief EO acknowledges that Americans need help now and cannot wait for Congress to act. During the pandemic, millions of Americans have lost their jobs or had wages reduced, making it difficult for working families to feed themselves and their children. Approximately 29 million adults and 12 million children face food insecurity, and, without changes like the ones included in the most recent EO, these numbers would likely swell even higher.
Below is a summary of the aspects of President Biden’s Executive Order that address hunger in America.
Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT)
- Increase P-EBT benefits: P-EBT was established to provide low-income families with money equivalent to the value of the school meals children receive. During COVID-19 school closures, families get up to $5.70 per child per school day, and many families have had trouble claiming these benefits. President Biden has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase the amount of P-EBT benefits low-income families receive by 15%. This benefit change will be retroactive, meaning it will apply for the whole school year.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Increase SNAP benefits: During the pandemic, USDA approved an emergency increase in SNAP benefits to address the increasing number of individuals who are becoming food insecure. But, the lowest-income households, those most in need, did not receive additional benefits. President Biden has directed USDA to increase the amount of SNAP benefits families can receive to help those most in need.
- Revise Thrifty Food Plan as required by the 2018 Farm Bill: USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan is the basis for determining SNAP benefits. However, the plan is outdated and does not accurately reflect how much it costs many households to buy and prepare nutritious food. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress instructed USDA to update the Plan. President Biden is following through, directing USDA to revise the Thrifty Food Plan to accurately reflect the cost of a standard healthy diet today.