While This Year’s Temporary SNAP Boost Is a Start, District Leaders Must Do More to Eliminate Food Insecurity

March 26, 2024
Blog Post

Read our policy snapshot to read more about SNAP and our recommendations. 

District of Columbia residents facing food insecurity got a bit of a boost in late February when they began receiving the increased monthly benefit amount outlined in the District’s Give SNAP a Raise legislation, which Mayor Bowser signed but did not implement until late January. In case you forgot, advocates joined together to publicly press the Mayor on the issue late last year and early this year in a series of actions that attracted increasing media attention after the Mayor chose not to implement the law requiring Give SNAP a Raise to go into effect.

Why SNAP is Important

Roughly one in seven District children and youth under the age of 18 is likely to go hungry. According to the most recent Census Pulse survey data, 13% of District adults in households with children under 18 said they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat. Without SNAP benefits, that situation would likely be worse.

Because systemic discrimination leads to massive income disparities, food insecurity disproportionately impacts families of color. According to the most recent Census estimates, the median income for the District’s white households with children ($280,000) is more than four times that of Black households ($62,300) and nearly twice that of Latine households ($173,800). Unsurprisingly, given those gaps, Black families with children in the District are more likely to report food insecurity than white families. Of all households enrolled in SNAP in the District, 90% are Black and 3% are Latine, making adequate support for SNAP a racial justice issue.

Why it took so long to Give SNAP a Raise

The DC Council couldn’t find money in the regular budget for this increase, making it contingent on more revenue than forecast (as DC Action discussed last summer). As the fiscal year drew to a close at the end of September 2023, it became clear that there were, in fact, funds available, and the increase was expected to be implemented. 

When Mayor Bowser unexpectedly refused to implement the bill, our colleagues at Legal Aid DC threatened to file a lawsuit on behalf of several families expecting the increase. With the lawsuit threat, advocate-organized actions and protests, media stories, and outrage from the DC Council and District residents, Mayor Bowser changed her mind and agreed to implement the law. SNAP participants received the January and February boost retroactively starting February 23, and the regular monthly boost began in March and will continue through September 2024.

How do we build on this progress?

To be clear, even with this boost, SNAP alone is not enough to eliminate food insecurity. That’s by design: the federal government sets SNAP benefits expecting households to spend about 30% of their resources on food. And while temporarily increasing the benefit amount by 10% of each household’s federal maximum through Give SNAP a Raise helps, for now, the District should fund this increase in a more sustainable way. There’s also room for improvement in reducing the administrative hurdles District residents must overcome to apply for the program.