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Rising food prices make it harder for families on assistance programs to get by

Jasmine Garsd Aug 12, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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One food bank network director says that even during good times, "the SNAP subsidy is often not sufficient." Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
COVID-19

Rising food prices make it harder for families on assistance programs to get by

Jasmine Garsd Aug 12, 2020
One food bank network director says that even during good times, "the SNAP subsidy is often not sufficient." Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The consumer price index out Wednesday tells us more about how much people were paying for goods in July. It’s up 0.6%, with gasoline driving things. The cost of food that we buy to eat at home was up more than 4% from a year ago in July.

For a growing number of Americans who depend on food assistance programs, the rising cost of food is straining how much they can buy.

“A couple of months ago, we saw the largest single-month increase in food prices that we’ve seen in the last 50 years,” said Diane Schanzenbach, an economist at Northwestern University.

This is at a time when millions of Americans are unemployed, and 43 million people are signed up for the food assistance program, SNAP. Schanzenbach says that during the pandemic, more families have been able to get the maximum benefit, which works out to about $40 per person per week.

Robin Safley, executive director of Feeding Florida, the state’s food bank network, says that with rising prices that’s not enough.

“So even during good times, when things are normal, the SNAP subsidy is often not sufficient,” Safley said. “So it’s only been compounded now.”

And she says, for food banks, it’s also getting more expensive to buy food staples for people in need.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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