Student debt, SNAP, day care, Medicare changes can make October pivotal for your finances

October is bringing big financial changes to millions of Americans.

After a three-year hiatus, 43 million people will start paying off federal student loans again. A similar number will get a small boost to their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly food stamps). More than 3 million children may be at risk of losing child care after pandemic emergency money that supported the industry expired Saturday. And finally, 65 million seniors on Medicare will get a chance to tweak their health care plans.

Any one of these things could bring big changes to people’s budgets, which is why we’re breaking down what each of them could mean to your pocketbook.

Will student loans resume in October?



By now, you’ve probably already received a statement from your loan servicer. It details the amount of your monthly federal student loan payments and the interest rate charged on your balance. Millions of people will need to make their first loan payment this month after a three-year pause.

If you haven’t, get in touch with your loan service right away. Even though you won’t be reported to credit reporting agencies for a year if you miss your payments, interest will accrue. So it’s better to start paying if you can.

Of those making payments, the average monthly student loan payment was $200 to $299, according to Federal Reserve data from 2018 through May 2019. Nearly 3 in 10 adults with outstanding education debt weren’t making payments because deferments are allowed while people are in college, it said.

If you were lucky enough to receive loan forgiveness, check to see if you owe state taxes on it.

What does SNAP do on October 1?

The cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, kicked in Sunday for SNAP recipients, meaning you may see a boost in your check starting this month.

The maximum monthly amount a family of four can receive is now $973, from $939. The maximum a single person can receive increases to $291 from $281. On the other end, the minimum benefit in most places will remain at $23 for up to a two-person household.

Though the COLA increase is likely welcomed by SNAP recipients, it won’t fully make up for the loss this year of pandemic-related emergency boosts. By March, the last of the pandemic supplement expired. Every SNAP household saw at least $95 a month less, but some saw reductions of $250 a month or more, according to the nonpartisan research and policy institute Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The average person received about $90 a month less in SNAP benefits after the increase lapsed, it said.

In fiscal year 2021, 41.5 million people a month, or 12.5% of U.S. residents, used SNAP, the Department of Agriculture said. In fiscal year 2019, 43% of all SNAP participants were children and 16% were at least 60, it said.

Student loan payments have resumed—here's how to save money
Student loan payments have resumed—here's how to save money

Why childcare prices might rise

Child care already costs an average of $1,031 a year more than public college tuition, according to lending platform NetCredit. Now that pandemic-related child care emergency funding has expired, parents could see that gap widen even further.

The $24 billion Child Care Stabilization Program, passed through the American Rescue Plan of 2021, allocated funding to more than 220,000 child care programs and covered as many as 9.6 million children, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. That program expired Saturday.

Without the additional funding, child care programs may be forced to close. More than 70,000 child care programs could close, according to The Century Foundation, a progressive public policy think tank. More than 3 million children are at risk of losing their child care spots, it said.

The ones that remain open may have to raise prices, experts said, leaving some families perilously close to falling off a financial cliff.

Childcare cliff hanger: Sept. 30 may represent child care cliff as emergency federal funding runs dry

Student loans: Should you refinance?

Medicare open enrollment to begin

More than 65 million Americans will soon get a chance to switch their health care plans with Medicare’s open enrollment beginning Oct. 15 and running through Dec. 7. 

During open enrollment, people with Medicare can change their health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their needs − whether dictated by health changes, finances or something else.

Only about one-third of Medicare beneficiaries compare plans during the open enrollment period, according to the nonprofit KFF, which focuses on health care policy. But experts strongly encourage you to review your coverage because plans often change, especially drug coverage, and you may end up paying more. 

During open enrollment each fall, people with Medicare can change their health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year.
During open enrollment each fall, people with Medicare can change their health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year.

Each year, Medicare health and drug plans can change things like cost, coverage, and what providers and pharmacies are in their networks.

Medora Lee is a money, markets, and personal finance reporter at USA TODAY. You can reach her at and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.  

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How student debt, SNAP, Medicare, daycare change can affect your money