May 19, 2020

Gillibrand Urges Congress To Increase And Expand SNAP Benefits As Millions More Americans Seek Food Assistance Amid The COVID-19 Crisis

Following Introduction Of The Closing The Meal Gap Act Of 2020, Gillibrand Calls For Robust Provisions To Expand SNAP Benefits In Next Coronavirus Relief Legislation

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged Congress to expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and increase benefits in the next coronavirus relief package. Before the coronavirus crisis began, SNAP was providing food assistance to 38 million Americans. The program is widely used in both rural and urban localities — in New York, 13% of rural families depend on SNAP while 15% of those in metro areas rely on the program. Now, with millions more Americans dealing with economic fallout from widespread business closures and subsequent job losses, more low income households, the elderly, and people with disabilities are relying on this vital social safety net to feed themselves and their families. In alignment with the recently House-passed HEROES Act, Senator Gillibrand is pushing the Senate to also provide an increase in maximum SNAP benefits by 15%, extend the P-EBT program and expand eligibility, and expand the SNAP program so that more Americans have more options to put nutritious food on the table. 

“The SNAP program provides a critical lifeline for food insecure families, and during this unprecedented crisis, the program needs more support than ever to meet the growing needs of hungry Americans,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Not only must SNAP provide more benefits, but barriers to eligibility should also be limited in order to reach more families. We cannot continue to allow big businesses to receive support during this crisis while millions of Americans are left struggling to make ends meet. We must include provisions to increase SNAP benefits in the next coronavirus relief package and I’m proud to lead the fight to keep food on the table throughout this pandemic and beyond.” 

“A comprehensive package will go a long way to both stabilize the economy and provide direct assistance to individuals and families through proven programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child nutrition programs, among other food assistance programs. Millions of households rely on federal nutrition programs to help put food on the table, and there is no time to lose. We cannot pause efforts to provide individuals and households with the resources they need to stay afloat during the pandemic. The fallout of COVID-19 continues to create poverty and hunger for our communities. It is not only affecting major metropolitan areas like New York. This is impacting every city on the east and west coasts, in the Midwest and down south. That is why the Senate must move quickly to invest in benefits that help struggling individuals and families, pregnant and postpartum women, and children across the nation. By enacting this bill, the Senate will have the opportunity to improve the lives of 2 in 5 households with mothers and kids under 12 who have reported struggling with food insecurity, and the untold more living on the edge of poverty that are hit hardest by this crisis.” - Food Research & Action Center President, Luis Guardia.

SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are some of the country’s most vital social safety net programs to reduce hunger, address malnutrition, and poverty. More than 41% of SNAP recipients are in families with children, approximately 26% are in families with members who are elderly or have disabilities, and more than 30% earned a paycheck. Senator Gillibrand’s provisions will not only increase SNAP benefits for each family, but they will expand eligibility by removing harmful barriers to access, and they will put healthy and nutritious food on the table for families in need during this pandemic. Specifically, Senator Gillibrand is calling to: 

  • Boost SNAP maximum benefits by 15% and tie to an economic indicator;
  • Increase the minimum monthly SNAP benefit to $30 per month;
  • Extend the length of the Pandemic EBT Program through the summer and allow eligibility for children in daycare programs;
  • Provide an additional $1.1 billion in funding for the WIC nutritional supplements for pregnant women and small children including increasing the value of the WIC Cash Value Voucher (CVV) from $9 for children and $11 for women per month to $35 for both women and children;
  • Waive time limit requirements for SNAP and prohibit funding for USDA to implement or finalize the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents, Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, and Standard Utility Allowance rules;
  • Direct USDA to allow the use of SNAP to purchase hot foods or hot products from authorized retail food stores;
  • Provide additional funding to states for SNAP administration this fiscal year;
  • Increase food aid to Puerto Rico

Senator Gillibrand has consistently pushed to make food assistance more accessible to Americans throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Last month, she announced the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2020 which would expand and strengthen vital SNAP benefits for vulnerable communities. In addition, Senator Gillibrand successfully expanded the Pandemic EBT Program to provide critical funds to families whose children normally rely on free or reduced-price school meals. Additionally, she has joined a bipartisan push to ensure SNAP benefits can be used for home food delivery and curbside pickup as individuals try to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below. 

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May 19, 2020

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader

United States Senate 

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer 

Minority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

Before the COVID-19 crisis began the unemployment rate was at 3.5% , the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was helping feed 38 million Americans, or 12 percent of the population, and during these unprecedented times, the need for SNAP has and will continue to significantly increase. SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are some of our country’s most vital social safety net programs to reduce hunger, address malnutrition, and poverty. More than 41 percent of SNAP recipients are in families with children, approximately 26 percent are in families with members who are elderly or have disabilities, and more than 30 percent earned a paycheck.                                         

While many erroneously believe that SNAP beneficiaries live in urban cities, the statistics demonstrate that these programs benefit Americans in all areas of the country. According to an analysis of recent census data, 22 percent of rural Kentucky families benefit from the SNAP program, and 12 percent of urban Kentucky families. While in New York 13 percent of rural families depend on SNAP, and 15 percent of those in metro areas. In fact, the top 19 counties in America that depend on SNAP are small town or rural counties, and includes four counties in Kentucky – Lee, Clay, Wolfe and Owsley county , where 45% of the citizens depend on the SNAP program. New York’s Bronx County is the 20th leading county, with SNAP need at 37% of the county.                                                   

This need will only grow as a result of widespread business closures and subsequent job loss during this pandemic. The recently passed HEROES Act provides a blueprint for what will be needed to address hunger in America for the months to come and I would urge you to include the following provisions in any consensus bill that is negotiated:

  • Boost SNAP maximum benefits by 15 percent and tie to an economic indicator;
  • Increase the minimum monthly SNAP benefit to $30 per month;
  • Extend the length of the Pandemic EBT Program through the summer and allow eligibility for children in daycare programs;
  • Provide an additional $1.1 billion in funding for the WIC nutritional supplements for pregnant women and small children including increasing the value of the WIC Cash Value Voucher (CVV) from $9 for children and $11 for women per month to $35 for both women and children;
  • Waive time limit requirements for SNAP and prohibit funding for USDA to implement or finalize the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents, Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, and Standard Utility Allowance rules;
  • Direct USDA to allow the use of SNAP to purchase hot foods or hot products from authorized retail food stores;
  • Provide additional funding to states for SNAP administration this fiscal year;
  • Increase food aid to Puerto Rico

In addition to the nutritional benefit to children, elderly and disabled individuals, the investment in the SNAP program acts as a force multiplier in helping our economy. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, “$1 billion in new SNAP benefits would lead to an increase of $1.54 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—54 percent above and beyond the new benefits”. An investment in SNAP is an investment in American health and economic well- being.

Thank you for your attention to this important request. I look forward to working with you to include these provisions in the next COVID package that the Senate will be considering, and to make sure every family that receives these benefits will be protected during this pandemic.                                             

Sincerely,