An initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Issue Brief

The Impact of Increasing SNAP Benefits on Stabilizing the Economy, Reducing Poverty and Food Insecurity amid COVID-19 Pandemic


Sara Bleich

Professor of Public Health Policy, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Caroline Dunn

Research Associate, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Sheila Fleischhacker

Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center


November 10th, 2022


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides participants with monthly financial assistance to purchase food. SNAP is by far the largest federal nutrition safety net program serving 38 million people in the United States—nearly half of whom are children. SNAP is proven to reduce poverty and food insecurity. With unemployment currently at a record high as a result of COVID-19—an unprecedented public health crisis with significant economic effects—SNAP participation is expected to increase significantly.

This brief provides evidence regarding the potential positive impact of a SNAP benefit increase on the economy and on SNAP households in the context of the current SNAP benefit allotment. We also discuss the SNAP provisions in the three congressional COVID-19 aid bills that have already been enacted.

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