August 27, 2019

By Kristina Benjamin, Zero Hunger Intern, and Lauren Badger, Senior Government Relations Associate

photo of Capital Hill, Washington, D.C.Congress is on recess until September 9. During recess, advocates should engage with their Members of Congress to advocate for stronger child nutrition programs and work to protect and strengthen SNAP.

This roundup describes legislative and administrative actions currently in play on Capitol Hill, and is intended to provide the latest information for in-district meetings and site visits with Members of Congress.

  • Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR): Both the Senate Agriculture and House Education and Labor Committees have held hearings on CNR, and several “marker” bills (bills containing provisions that are intended to be included in a larger reauthorization package) have been introduced. These four bills would strengthen the child nutrition programs. Urge your Members of Congress to cosponsor these bills.

The Summer Meals Act of 2019 (S. 1908/H.R. 2818), introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Rick Larsen (D-WA), would strengthen the Summer Food Service Program by lowering the area eligibility test from 50 percent to 40 percent to allow more low-income communities to provide summer meals; allowing nonprofit and local government agencies to provide meals year-round through the Summer Food Service Program; allowing all sites to serve three meals; and providing grant funding to support efforts to reach underserved areas. S. 1908 includes an additional provision to support meal service in disaster situations. Sign on your organization to endorse this bill.

The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act (S. 1941/H.R. 3378), introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), would provide families who have children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to help them purchase food during the summer. Sign on your organization to endorse this bill.

The No Shame At School Act (S. 1907/H.R. 3366), introduced by Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), would prohibit schools from taking any action that stigmatizes or shames students who cannot pay their meal fees; require school districts to certify students who are categorically eligible for free school meals and take steps to determine if children whose households are accruing school meal debt are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals; and allow school districts to claim free and reduced-price school meals retroactively for students who are certified to receive them during the school year. Sign on your organization to endorse this bill.

‣ The Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act (S. 2358), introduced by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), would strengthen the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by allowing states to extend child eligibility to age six or the beginning of kindergarten; extend postpartum women’s WIC eligibility to two years; and extend infant certification periods to two years (currently set at one year).

  • SNAP bills: Two bills have been introduced during this Congress that would strengthen SNAP. Urge your Representative to cosponsor the bills. Visit FRAC’s SNAP/Farm Bill page for more information.

‣ The Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2019 (H.R. 1368), introduced by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), would increase SNAP benefits for all program participants by replacing the inadequate Thrifty Food Plan as the basis for SNAP benefits with the Low-Cost Food Plan, which is more in line with the economic realities of low-income households. The bill also would make improvements to help older Americans avoid choosing between food and medicine, and help households with children avoid choosing between food and shelter.

‣ The Improving Access to Nutrition Act of 2019 (H.R. 2809), introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), would lift SNAP’s arbitrary three-month time limit for certain underemployed and unemployed SNAP recipients who can’t obtain, maintain, and document sufficient weekly work hours.

  • College hunger bills: Several bills have been introduced recently that address food and housing insecurity among college students.

‣ The Closing the College Hunger Gap Act (S. 2110/H.R. 3718), introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), would collect data on food and housing insecurity on college campuses, and connect eligible students with nutrition programs such as SNAP.

‣ The College Student Hunger Act of 2019 (S. 2143/H.R. 3809), introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL), would enable more low-income college students to access SNAP, and urge governments and academic institutions to take a proactive role in addressing college student food insecurity.

‣ The Supporting Transparency to Overcome Poverty (STOP) and Campus Hunger Act (H.R. 3734), introduced by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), would require the U.S. Department of Education and higher learning institutions to better coordinate the sharing of information about SNAP, WIC, and on-campus food assistance.

  • Fiscal year 2020 appropriations and budget deal update: Congress must act on its 12 annual appropriations (spending) bills by the September 30 fiscal year deadline to keep government programs running. The House has passed 10 of its 12 appropriations bills (the fiscal year 2020 agriculture bill was included in a five-bill package, H.R. 3055). Before leaving for recess, Congress passed a two-year budget caps and debt ceiling deal package (H.R. 3877), and Senate appropriators reportedly began working on their version of the fiscal year 2020 spending bills. In addition to increasing discretionary non-defense and defense spending for two years, H.R. 3877 also averts automatic cuts (sequestration) to discretionary programs mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
  • Raise the Wage Act of 2019 (S. 150/H.R. 582): The Raise the Wage Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, and phase out employers’ ability to pay sub-minimum wages to tipped workers, workers with disabilities, and teenagers. On July 17, the bill passed the House, presenting an opportunity for advocates to urge the Senate to take up the Act.
  • Working Families Tax Relief Act (S. 1138/H.R. 3157): The Working Families Tax Relief Act, introduced by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Dwight Evans (D-PA), would substantially expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which would bolster the economic security of 46 million households.
  • Older Americans Act: The Older Americans Act is up for reauthorization in 2019. The Act supports a range of home- and community-based programs, including congregate meals and home-delivered meals, which improve the health and well-being of participants and help older adults live independently in their communities.

In addition to legislative activities, anti-hunger advocates must push back against harmful regulatory action from the Trump administration that would weaken low-income families’ access to critical nutrition, health care, housing, and other programs.

  • Submit a comment by September 23 to oppose the Trump administration’s latest attack on SNAP: On July 24, the Trump administration proposed a rule that would gut the SNAP broad-based categorical eligibility state option, which would take away critical food assistance from more than 3 million people who are struggling to make ends meet. Check out FRAC’s comment platform and resources to help you and those in your network submit a comment opposing the rule.
  • Take action to support access to nutrition programs for all eligible individuals and families: On August 14, the Trump administration published in the Federal Register a final rule on the definition of when an immigrant becomes a “public charge” — a rule that will fuel hunger and poverty in the U.S., and will force families, including those with U.S. citizen children, to make impossible choices between food and family. The rule will take effect October 15, 2019, unless Congress or the courts act to stop or delay it. Check out FRAC’s Public Charge and Other Threats to Immigrants’ Food Security advocacy tool for actions you can take, including speaking out against the rule, sharing stories on and working to counter the chilling effect, and urging your Representative to co-sponsor Rep. Judy Chu’s (D-CA) No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019 (H.R. 3222).

Thanks to advocates for submitting comments opposing previously published rules, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed SNAP Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents rule and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule that would prohibit “mixed status” immigrant families from living in certain federally subsidized housing. The comment periods for these rules have closed, and FRAC is keeping an eye out for developments to these rules as well as other new rules.

FRAC is continuing to work with advocates across the country to push for legislation and administrative rules that protect and strengthen the federal nutrition programs and other programs that are important to the food security, economic security, health, and well-being of low-income individuals and families.

Keep up to date at FRAC’s Legislative Action Center and sign up for our alerts to learn how you can engage on these issues.

Click to Tweet: Calling all advocates: Congress is on recess, providing the perfect time to meet with and encourage Members of Congress to take bold action to eliminate U.S. hunger and poverty. @fractweets experts share key legislation and rules to push for: #FRACChat