Bennet Unveils Bold New Proposal to Expand, Strengthen SNAP Food Assistance

Plan Would Increase Maximum SNAP Benefit by 15% Now and Automatically During Future Economic Downturns

Denver — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, announced a bold new plan to expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to strengthen the social safety net and provide stimulus during a recession. The plan follows a series of proposals from Bennet to strengthen unemployment insurance and help Americans weather the economic fallout of the outbreak by providing direct cash payments. In all of three of these areas – unemployment benefits, direct cash assistance, and SNAP – Bennet has led the push for enhancing their ability to act as automatic stabilizers, which expand automatically and immediately to support individuals when the economy deteriorates and provide much-needed economic support to prevent recessions or mitigate their consequences when they cannot be prevented. In each case, the expansion of benefits and increased economic support would continue until the unemployment rate comes down to levels consistent with where it was before the economic deterioration began. 

“As the COVID-19 crisis has so clearly brought to light, we are doing too little to provide a basic safety net for the millions of struggling families across the country,” said Bennet. “My plan expands food assistance and eliminates barriers to accessing that necessary assistance when the economy is deteriorating like it is today, and increases access permanently across the nation. As the harmful impact of this pandemic on our economy continues, we must act urgently to provide nutritional assistance to our nation’s most vulnerable families, and particularly our children. We should never allow the kind of severe hardship we are seeing in America today, with our food banks strained to a breaking point as families wait in line for hours on end just to be able to eat.” 

The largest food assistance program in the country, SNAP provided stability and food security to nearly 20 million households with almost 40 million people even before the COVID-19 crisis began. With increasing need as a result of the economic fallout of the crisis, millions more Americans will need that support now. SNAP is one of the most effective programs aimed at alleviating child hunger and is one of the most effective countercyclical stimulus programs. A Moody’s Analytics study found that every dollar increase in SNAP benefits during the Great Recession in 2008 generated roughly $1.70 of economic activity. 

Bennet’s proposal will reform SNAP by:

  • Increasing the maximum SNAP benefit by 15%, providing additional funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, and eliminating work requirements during recessions. This includes through the end of the COVID-19 public health crisis and thereafter, until the unemployment rate declines near to where it was before the crisis began; and
  • Ensuring the use of broad-based categorical eligibility so that more vulnerable families can access SNAP benefits, even outside of a crisis. 

Bennet developed the proposal in close consultation with a wide range of experts on economic and fiscal policy, unemployment, and support for vulnerable populations. Were Bennet’s proposal in effect today, millions of Americans who are struggling in wake of the coronavirus pandemic would have increased benefits, and more would find themselves newly eligible for additional assistance. Bennet will push hard for enacting his SNAP proposal as part of the next major COVID-19 economic support package to provide this much-needed relief immediately and ensure it continues until unemployment has returned to pre-crisis levels. 

A detailed description of the plan is available HERE. Draft legislative text is available HERE.   

Last month, Bennet unveiled a new proposal to strengthen and modernize unemployment insurance (UI) so that it better supports Americans with targeted, timely, and comprehensive assistance when the economy deteriorates. More on Bennet’s UI plan is available HERE

Earlier in March, Bennet unveiled a bold plan to help Americans weather the economic fallout of the outbreak by providing direct cash payments. More on Bennet’s direct payment plan is available HERE.