Hastings, Lee, McGovern, Frankel, and Deutch Call for an Immediate Boost to Hunger Relief for Struggling Families in COVID Relief Package

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Washington, D.C., December 17, 2020 | comments

(Washington, D.C.) Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), along with Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Ted Deutch (D-FL), led 62 of their colleagues in sending a letter urging House and Senate Leadership to include a funding increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutritional programs in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package under negotiation. As our nation faces a hunger crisis worsened by the growing toll this pandemic has taken, $5.5 billion in emergency food aid is dwindling despite the increasing number of families struggling to put food on the table. Bolstering federal nutrition programs like SNAP will provide short-term hunger relief, while preventing long-term health and economic harm to our most vulnerable. (Please find the letter below and attached).

The letter was endorsed by: Feeding America, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Feeding South Florida, California Association of Food Banks, United Way of Palm Beach County, Alameda County Community Food Banks.

December 17, 2020

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader
S-230, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Steny Hoyer
House Majority Leader
H-107, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Senate Minority Leader
S-221, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
House Majority Leader
H-204, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Majority Leader Hoyer, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

As we navigate simultaneous health and economic crises, we respectfully urge you to increase the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit by 15 percent for all participants as part of future funding and COVID‑19 relief legislation. Doing so will help address deep systemic inequities in access to food and other daily necessities that have been laid bare in our most vulnerable populations and it is crucial that we utilize every option available to eliminate these gaps in the near and distant future.[1] SNAP is one of the most important tools to meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations, with 85.3 percent of all benefits reaching households with children, seniors, and disabled residents.[2] An increase in the maximum SNAP benefit for all participants would provide a modest 15 percent boost in benefits. With grocery prices increasing at the fastest rate in 50 years, SNAP is the nation’s greatest defense against hunger and helps stimulate local economies.[3]

We have all seen the lines of Americans waiting for hours to receive food due to the struggles imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis.[4] Even before the pandemic, 37 million American households struggled with food insecurity, lacking consistent access to nutritious meals despite residing in the richest country in the world.[5] While over 90 percent of food assistance in the U.S. comes from federal programs, charitable and community organizations on the frontlines are responding to tremendous need across the country. Additional federal relief from increasing SNAP and providing additional federal commodities for emergency food providers will feed hungry Americans and help food banks and other community partners keep pace with growing demand for nutritious meals. SNAP is proven to not only lift people out of poverty, but to deliver critically needed jobs and economic stimulus.[6]

Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation to expand capacity to meet the surge in demand for food assistance caused by the COVID-19 crisis through Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Families First) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. As approximately $5.5 billion in emergency food aid through food banks and other channels are winding down, the need to expand federal nutrition programs is increasingly urgent.[7] The initial response to the pandemic provided much needed temporary assistance, but many of these short-term infusions are ending as the need for food assistance is at an all-time high. Congress must act swiftly to provide additional assistance by increasing benefits for SNAP, along with additional funding for programs such as TEFAP, as well as those that address child and senior nutrition, childcare and school nutrition, and food access for Indian Reservations and U.S. territories. Puerto Rico was already recording higher rates of food insecurity and poverty than the 50 states and the economic crisis means they are relying on federal food assistance more than ever, with capped funding that is insufficient to fully meet the significant and growing needs of residents of Puerto Rico.

The need is clear, and emergency and immediate funding as well as crucial administrative flexibilities have proven to alleviate the hunger crisis on our hands. Bolstering federal nutrition programs like SNAP will provide short-term hunger relief, while preventing long-term health and economic harm to our most vulnerable. These provisions should not sunset until the national and state emergency declarations are lifted. We must address the hunger crisis, while anticipating a long-term need for nutrition aid as we combat and recover from the immense economic and social upheaval.

With the holiday season and winter upon us, we cannot neglect one of the most basic needs. We look forward to working with you to get relief to those who need it most until we can be certain of a strong recovery.

Sincerely, 

Alcee L. Hastings 
Barbara Lee
James P. McGovern
Lois Frankel
Ted Deutch
Jan Schakowsky
Jim Costa 
Jimmy Panetta
Nanette Diaz Barragán
Juan Vargas 
Chellie Pingree 
Salud Carbajal
Bobby L. Rush 
Cheri Bustos
Mike Thompson
Danny K. Davis
Joseph D. Morelle
Debbie Dingell
Kathy Castor 
Sheila Jackson Lee 
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. 
Zoe Lofgren 
Al Lawson
Emanuel Cleaver, II 
Marcy Kaptur 
Jerrold Nadler 
Jerry McNerney
Alan Lowenthal
Mark Pocan
Ruben Gallego 
Mark DeSaulnier
Ro Khanna
Wm. Lacy Clay
Scott H. Peters
Jason Crow
Dina Titus 
Thomas R. Suozzi
J. Luis Correa
Adam B. Schiff 
Kim Schrier, M.D. 
Eric Swalwell
Bonnie Watson Coleman
Darren Soto 
Peter Welch 
Debbie Wasserman Schultz 
Jim Langevin 
Don Young 
Tony Cárdenas 
Anna G. Eshoo
Jared Huffman
Adam Smith 
Raja Krishnamoorthi 
Dwight Evans 
Steve Cohen
Anthony G. Brown
Frederica S. Wilson
Abigail D. Spanberger
André Carson
Alma S. Adams, Ph.D.
Bennie G. Thompson
Ed Case
Donald M. Payne Jr.
Ted Lieu
Linda T. Sánchez
Grace F. Napolitano
Robin L. Kelly

[1] “'No end in sight': hunger surges in America amid a spiraling pandemic.” Nina Lakhani and Maanvi Singh. The Guardian. November 25, 2020. “Visualizing Food Insecurity. Diane Schanzenbach and Natalie Tomeh. Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research. July 14, 2020.

[2] Facts | SNAP Strengths. Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). 2020.

[3] “Economic Linkages: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Linkages with the General Economy.” USDA Economic Research Service. August 20, 2019.

[4] “Thousands in Texas line up in cars to receive food before Thanksgiving.” Danielle Garand. CBS News. November 16, 2020.

[5] “Food scarcity is on the rise in America as the economy reels.” Aimee Pinchee. CBS News. June 19, 2020.

[6] “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Economy: New Estimates of the SNAP Multiplier.” USDA Economic Research Service. July, 2019.

[7] “A $4.5 billion Trump food program is running out of money early, leaving families hungry and food assistance charities scrambling.” Laura Reiley & Gregg Jeffe. The Washington Post. December 8, 2020.

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

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