Economics in Brief: SNAP Gets Largest Boost Ever Under Biden
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Economics in Brief: SNAP Gets Largest Boost Ever Under Biden

Produce aisle at Whole Foods

(Photo by Ruth Hartnup / CC BY 2.0)

SNAP Gets Largest Boost Ever Under Biden

Benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly called food stamps — will increase an average of 27%, the Biden administration announced this week.

That translates to an average of $36 more in monthly benefits per person, CNN reports.

The changes stem from an update to the “Thrifty Food Plan,” which is supposed to determine how much it costs to buy healthy food, and set SNAP benefits accordingly. The new plan, in addition to offering more money, also factors in time: the updated “Thrifty Food Plan” has allowances for canned, rather than dried, beans, hard-boiled eggs, boxed macaroni and cheese and bagged salads, the New York Times reports.

Republican lawmakers are “already questioning the revision and its increased cost,” CNN says, adding that the revision stems from a 2018 bill, passed by a Republican-led Congress, which ordered the USDA to update SNAP every five years. Biden simply sped up the process through a January executive order.

Senator Introduces Bill to Stop Profiteering In Low-Income Housing

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has introduced a bill that seeks to stop large investors from profiting off certain affordable housing, WBUR reports.

The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program allows nonprofits to get funding to build affordable housing, while banks and other lenders receive tax credits in exchange for financing the housing up front. At the end of 15 years, the nonprofit can buy the property at below-market value.

At least, that’s what is supposed to happen. WBUR reported earlier this year that at the end of the 15-year period, investors that own the tax credits have been demanding larger payouts, or forcing the nonprofits to sell the properties on the open market.

Wyden says he plans to introduce a bill after Congress’s summer recess that will change how nonprofits can buy back the properties.

“What we’re basically saying is nonprofit organizations don’t need approval from private equity firms before buying the affordable units back,” Wyden told WBUR. “It’s a small change. It makes clear what Congress intended.”

Pay-What-You-Can Grocery Store Opens in St. Louis

There’s a new grocery store in the St. Louis Carondelet neighborhood, and it operates on a sliding-scale, pay-what-you-wish basis.

Riverfront Times reports that instead of prices, MARSH — which stands for Materializing and Activating Radical Social Habitus — Grocery Cooperative will post how much each item costs the co-op to provide. At checkout, shoppers can decide whether to pay more or less than the posted amount.

“People choose the food they choose because of extremely complex, interrelated issues,” Beth Neff, MARSH’s founder and one of the worker-owners, tells Riverfront Times. “Here, we are trying to see what happens when we build our own grassroots food system from bare bones. We want to envision and try to build it rather than going off of default models of how things are done.”

MARSH has been operating as a website during the pandemic, and opens its brick-and-mortar location with a grand opening Saturday.

Biden to Cancel (Some) Student Debt

This just in… Thursday, the Biden administration announced that it will erase $5.8 billion in student debt for Americans with “severe” disabliities, the AP reports. Technically, disabled people with student debt can already have their debt erased, if they submit onerous paperwork and undergo a three-year monitoring period to prove they can’t work; the Education Department said that it will now erase this debt automatically. The move is expected to affect 323,000 Americans.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi.

Tags: affordable housingst. louisgrocery storesfood securitycooperativesfood stampsstudent debt

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