Food Stamp Aid Skyrockets

More than six million people signed up for assistance during the early months of the pandemic.

July 22, 2020

WASHINGTON—As the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses, more than six million people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from February to May, a 17% boost in enrollees, the New York Times reports.

That number is likely to rise even higher as the economy sputters and families deplete savings. In the 42 states for which the newspaper analyzed data, food stamp recipients increased in 41. “SNAP is the universal safety net,” said Diane Schanzenbach, an economist at Northwestern University.

The Trump Administration loosened regulations during the pandemic to speed enrollment in the program. “SNAP is very well suited to quickly meet the needs of low-income individuals,” said Tom C. Rawlings, the director of the Division of Family and Children Services in Georgia. “It is also pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy.”

Congress enacted a temporary SNAP expansion in March by giving all recipients the maximum aid for their household size. Currently, around 43 million people, or about one out of every eight Americans, now receive food stamps. Meanwhile, retailers like Walmart and Amazon continue to test accepting SNAP benefits for online orders.

Out of the 152,720 convenience stores in the United States, more than 111,000 participate SNAP—representing about 45% of all retail outlets authorized to accept SNAP benefits. Convenience stores are often the only establishments easily accessible by walking or public transportation, or the only food retail locations open for business with extended or 24-hour service.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.