President Biden plans to sign an executive order on Friday that would increase food stamp benefits to help people going hungry amid the financial downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, his top economic adviser, Brian Deese, told reporters.
Biden has already proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package to Congress that includes direct payments and other types of aid for people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. In the meantime, he is directing his administration to take steps to tweak programs to try to provide some assistance.
"The American people can't afford to wait, and so many are hanging by a thread. They need help," Deese told reporters, explaining the measures are not a substitute for a broader relief package. An estimated 29 million adults and at least 8 million children are experiencing hunger because of the pandemic, he said.
Biden plans to ask the Agriculture Department, which administers the food stamp program, for a 15% bump in the emergency benefits given to families whose kids normally would count on breakfast and lunch from school programs, Deese said. That change could increase food stamp benefits for a family of three by about $105 over two months, he said.
Biden also wants about 12 million of the lowest-income food stamp recipients to be able to qualify for the emergency food benefits. This tweak would lift their food stamps by 15% to 20% per month, Deese said.
A third part of the order would protect unemployed workers from losing their benefits if they turn down a job because it presents a substantial risk of getting COVID-19, he said.