Breaking News
More () »

Tampa Bay and Sarasota's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Tampa Bay and Sarasota, FL | WTSP.com

President Biden to increase federal food benefits for families in need

"What the president’s message sends is that you matter and resources to your family matter,” Mantz said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional sourcing and links.

There are a million people today in the 10-county area that Feeding Tampa Bay serves that are food insecure.

“One million,” Thomas Mantz said. He’s the president and CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay.

“That’s a huge number of people who aren’t sure where they are going to get their next meal,” Mantz said.

As a charitable organization, Mantz says Feeding Tampa Bay, along with other food relief organizations work hard to provide as much as they can. 

“But we need help,” Mantz admits.

And that help is coming. Today, President Joe Biden plans to sign two new executive orders that target economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first will focus on increasing financial assistance for food amid a growing hunger crisis. The second aims to help federal workers, in part by restoring collective bargaining and worker protections that the Trump administration rescinded.

“We are so thrilled to know that President Biden - his administration understand that in order for us to respond in a big way, which needs to happen, that they are going to put far more money into relief programs for the folks that we serve,” Mantz said.

CBS News reports President Biden will ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to let states hike Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, more often known as food stamps, by 15 percent.

Federal lawmakers recently passed a $1 trillion relief bill, increasing the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent, but that legislation didn't help the 40 percent of people who get SNAP benefits who were already getting the maximum amount, according to CBS.

The news network says Biden's order would effectively instruct the USDA to "consider issuing new guidance that would allow states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for those who need it most," a White House fact sheet explained, meaning an extra 12 million people who see their benefited enhanced.

“Everyone agrees that people should have food on their tables,” Mantz said. “So, we are so grateful that the administration says hey this is a priority for us and what, we are on day three of the new president’s administration and he’s already made this a priority!”

The order would also increase Pandemic-EBT, an electronic debit card program for students who would have qualified for free or reduced-price meals at school. Biden is asking the USDA for a 15% bump in the P-EBT benefits. According to the White House, this could provide a family with three children an additional $100 in support per month.

“So, families who are income challenge right now would get that assistance, which would allow them to provide for themselves during this really tough stretch for a whole lot of our friends and family members,” Mantz said.

As NPR explains, a third part of the order would protect people who are unemployed, keeping them from being stripped of their benefits if they don't take certain jobs because the gigs may come with heightened risks of getting COVID-19.

“It is our federal government that is saying hey we want and need to help. We need to make sure our neighbors are OK,” Mantz said. “And this is something I think all of us can agree on again, politics aside, we can all agree that it’s a good idea to help a neighbor in need.”

These orders being signed today will bring President Biden's three-day total to 29 executive orders and actions.