FRAC’s COVID-19 Updates Check out FRAC's COVID-19 page for updates, statements, and resources on actions to address the food security, public health, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 emergency.
COVID-19: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Americans Are Lining Up for Food. What Is Team Trump Doing?, The New York Times, May 4, 2020 In this opinion piece by Matt Russel, Robert Leonard, and Beto O’Rourke, the authors suggest that the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is not doing enough to address the strain on food banks trying to feed the growing number of people requiring food assistance. Instead, the authors argue that by “expanding and rethinking SNAP, we have a chance to help farmers, rural communities, big cities, grocery stores, restaurants, food banks and — most important — our fellow Americans who are otherwise unable to feed themselves, through no fault of their own.”
COVID-19 Exposes Stark Inequalities Across U.S. as Thousands Struggle Daily to Find Food, The Appeal, May 7, 2020 Experts say that increasing SNAP benefit amounts and accessibility will do more to reduce hunger than any emergency food effort can. “One of the priorities FRAC and Feeding America and other leading anti-hunger groups are pushing for in the next COVID-19 relief package is increasing the SNAP maximum benefits by 15 percent,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of special projects and initiatives at FRAC. “We have reams and reams of research showing how important SNAP is not only to the health and well-being of participants, but it’s also a stimulus to the economy. Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity.”
COVID-19 Crisis Makes Food Stamps More Dire, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 4, 2020 Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has written a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase SNAP benefits for households with college students who have needed to move home as a result of colleges and universities’ closures in response to COVID-19. Senator Bob Casey has proposed directing $500 million toward a food delivery program for SNAP recipients, which could help older adults and those living with disabilities who are unable to leave their homes. While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act increased funding for SNAP, USDA has interpreted this to apply only to those who were not already receiving the maximum benefit amount, leaving 40 percent of participants without an increase.
Newly unemployed may qualify for federal food assistance, WCVBoston, May 8, 2020 Over 38 percent of Massachusetts is food insecure as of late March. “Frankly, our food pantries can’t feed everyone, and we want them to be able to feed those who are not eligible for these programs,” Project Bread President Erin McAleer said. Project Bread is also working to enroll people in SNAP, and recently the state announced its enrollment in a federal program, called Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, where households with students enrolled in the free and reduced-price lunch program will receive $28.50 per week per child to cover the coast of groceries.
COVID-19: Feeding Adults
California wanted to extend free school meals to hungry parents and guardians. The federal government said no., The New York Times, May 8, 2020 USDA rejected a request from California’s Education Department to allow parents or guardians of children enrolled in free or reduced-price meal school programs to pick up meals for themselves. Crystal FitzSimons, the director of school and out-of-school time programs at the Food Research & Action Center, said school meal programs are not designed to provide food to adults unless they have disabilities and are receiving care from the school. But, she added, “It is definitely a creative approach to make sure families have access to nutrition.”
COVID-19: Disproportionate Racial Impact
‘People are really suffering’: Black and Latino communities help their own amid coronavirus crisis, USA Today, May 9, 2020 Black and Brown communities across America are being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the economic fallout. “It’s clear that we had to step up to fill in the gap,” said Joseph W. Daniels Jr., lead pastor of Emory Fellowship, a predominantly Black church in Washington, D.C., and founder of the food pantry Emory Beacon of Light. “We had to fill in places where typically and traditionally you would think that (the federal government) would step in.”
This is how economic pain is distributed in America, The Washington Post, May 9, 2020 According to the Labor Department, the soaring unemployment rate was not equal across all demographics. Women became unemployed at higher rates than men, Hispanics and Blacks were hit harder than whites and Asians, and those without high school diplomas were hit hardest.
COVID-19: Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT)
States Are Embracing Extra Funds from Pandemic EBT to Cover Missing School Meals, Civil Eats, May 4, 2020 According to Crystal FitzSimons, director of school and out-of-school time programs for the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), about 20 more states have submitted P-EBT plans to USDA. “We would like to see state plans get approved more quickly,” FitzSimons says. “We’re doing everything we can to encourage states to submit applications and to support states in doing so.” Most states are facing record high enrollment in federal nutrition programs, like SNAP, due to vast unemployment and underemployment while stay-at-home orders are in place. “States have different data systems,” FitzSimons says. “For some states it’s easier to identify all the kids in the state who receive free and reduced-price school meals, and for others, it’s more of a lift.”
Here’s How States Can Deliver More Food Assistance to Low-Income Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Health Affairs Blog, May 10, 2020 While some schools try to continue to serve foods even if they are closed, this poses challenges because it puts those preparing and distributing food at a greater risk, and, because meals need to be picked up by parents, this poses a challenge for those without reliable transportation. However, P-EBT is a process wherein households with children enrolled in the free and reduced-price meal programs are given money equivalent to the meals they would have received in school. The program became available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In order to apply, State Child Nutrition Agencies must lay out a plan including how they will identify and distribute P-EBT benefits to eligible children, how much P-EBT benefits should be issued per child, and when the state will implement the program.
Families can receive additional food assistance, The Hutchinson News, May 5, 2020 For Kansans in households with mixed immigration status, P-EBT will not affect “public charge” status, according to the Food Research & Action Center and the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign. P-EBT is one of a series of flexibilities and programs available to Kansans and their families amid the pandemic to assist with affording food.
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