(KXAN) — The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Wednesday that emergency benefits for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households have reached $20 billion per month.

This increase is across all 50 states and three territories to enhance food security during the COVID-19 pandemic. These emergency benefits represent a significant increase in food purchasing power for American families with a 40% growth in overall monthly SNAP benefits.

“These are unprecedented times for American families who are facing joblessness and hunger. USDA is providing a 40% increase in SNAP benefits to ensure that low-income individuals have enough food to feed themselves and their families during this national emergency,” said Secretary Perdue. “President Trump is taking care of America’s working-class families who have been hit hard with economic distress due to the coronavirus. Ensuring all households receive the maximum allowable SNAP benefit is an important part of President Trump’s Whole of America response to the coronavirus.”

Signed into law by President Trump, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)provides the issuance of emergency allotments in response to the current global pandemic. In the U.S., emergency allotments total nearly $2 billion per month, which is in addition to approximately $4.5 billion in benefits already provided to SNAP households each month. 

This latest action taken by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is the latest in a series of steps taken to protect Americans during the pandemic. Others include:

  • Providing more than one million meals a week to rural children through public-private partnership Meals to You.
  • Providing more than 227 million pounds of food through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). with another $850 million available from the FFCRA and Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act.
  • Providing administrative flexibilities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to allow for social distancing and for States to more quickly process new applications.

For more information on the USDA’s actions during the pandemic visit the department’s website here.