One thing people in Guilford County, the United States and around the world have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, is that, in a pandemic, governments become very, very generous. 

These days, there’s countless evidence to that effect and this week an announcement provided more.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced on Friday, Sept. 24, that households enrolled in the state’s Food and Nutrition Services program will see their benefits increase by 25 percent beginning on Friday, Oct. 1.

 This is the largest benefit increase in the program’s history ­– with the average monthly per-person benefit rising from $121 to $157.

The last time the amounts were revised was in 2006.

The move, according to the department, is due to a “national re-evaluation of benefit amounts” conducted by the US Department of Agriculture.

In North Carolina – a state with a population of 10.4 million – more than 1.6 million people are enrolled in the Food and Nutrition program that was for decades known as “food stamps.”

“The increase is the result of a congressionally mandated re-evaluation of the program to determine if it reflects the current cost of a nutritionally adequate diet,” according to a Sept. 24 press release from the department.  

It adds: “More than 1.4 million North Carolinians are facing hunger and of them 419,470 are children, according to Feeding America. That is one in seven people and one in five children. Food insecurity is associated with numerous adverse health outcomes ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes to mental illness. Children are particularly susceptible to the negative impacts of a lack of access to healthy food because their brains and bodies are still developing.”

The new, permanent 25 percent increase will start at the same time that a  temporary 15 percent increase – due to COVID-19 – ends.  That increase times out at midnight on the last day of September.