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SNAP Benefits Are Increasing Due To Rising Food Prices


On today’s program: The Biden administration has permanently increased the amount of assistance given to those who qualify for SNAP benefits, which Ken Regal from Just Harvest says will be a boon for families facing hunger insecurity; electric scooters have arrived in Pittsburgh, and although they’ve been a nuisance to some, the city hopes they help support mobility access; and a look at how policing has changed in the city since the death of George Floyd, when many called for fewer officers on the city’s force, and amidst a rise in violent crime. 

Federal food assistance benefits increased for the first time in years
(0:00 - 9:08)

Those receiving food assistance benefits will soon be getting more money. The monthly benefits will rise on average $36 per person, to a total of $157, starting in October.

The change comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture reassessed its Thrifty Food Plan, which is the basic diet upon which food assistance benefits are based.

“That food plan has been years and years and years out of date and did not fairly reflect what it really costs to feed a family, and so this new increase is about fixing that at a national level,” says Ken Regal, executive director of Just Harvest, an advocacy organization that works to address hunger in Allegheny County.

The 2018 Farm Bill required the USDA to conduct this review, but the Biden administration pushed the department to prioritize the assessment.

“As we expected, the re-evaluation showed that the Thrifty Food Plan, as it was previously constituted, does not make it possible for most families to keep food on the table for the entire month,” says Regal.

The organization he leads, Just Harvest, typically helps up to 1,200 people apply for benefits a year in Allegheny County, but that number doubled during the pandemic. A total of 1.8 million people are receiving food stamp benefits statewide.

Electric scooters have arrived in Pittsburgh
(9:16 - 17:51) 

Last month, Pittsburgh launched a pilot program deploying electric scooters throughout the city as part of a larger mobility plan called Move PGH.

As users navigate their way around the city, the growing pains of implementing an ambitious mobility plan are starting to show.

“So the e-scooters are not permitted on sidewalks. I know that that’s something that we’ve seen, and it’s a common complaint,” says Karina Ricks, director of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure.

The city partnered with e-scooter company Spin to put 700 scooters around town.

So far, Ricks says the scooters are being used frequently, even more compared to other cities Spin scooters have been placed in.

“The goal is to provide more mobility options for the people of Pittsburgh,” says Ricks. “We know that more than 20% of our households don’t have access to an automobile. For some of them it’s by choice, for many of them it’s by circumstance.”

Policing in Pittsburgh, a year after the death of George Floyd
(17:59 - 22:30) 

As violent crime has increased in Pittsburgh and across the country, some parts of the city have seen a stepped-up police presence, after a year of protests to reduce the city's reliance on law enforcement.

But 90.5 WESA'S Ariel Worthy reports that activists still say the city would be better off with fewer police, and due to the coronavirus, that might be what Pittsburgh gets.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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