Statement attributed to Luis Guardia, president, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, March 14, 2020 — The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) supports the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, H.R. 6201. FRAC commends the House for taking swift and thoughtful action to help people put food on the table and stay safe during the COVID-19 emergency. The bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support, also provides paid leave to some workers, additional funding for unemployment insurance, and establishes free testing for COVID-19. This bill is an important down payment for addressing the public health and economic challenges that COVID-19 presents, and for promoting food security for low-income and vulnerable people.
Congress recognizes that federal nutrition programs serve a critical role in addressing hunger and food insecurity during times of crisis. The bill gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authority to approve state plans to provide an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card to purchase food to households with children receiving free or reduced-price school meals in the event of school closures. The bill allows states to request waivers from USDA to provide temporary, emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to SNAP households up to the maximum monthly benefit amount, and suspends time limits on SNAP eligibility for unemployed and underemployed individuals.
With this bill, USDA will have additional authority to issue waivers to support access to the child nutrition programs, including issuing nationwide waivers which would reduce paperwork for states and help more schools, local government agencies, and community organizations quickly adapt and provide meals, waivers that can increase programmatic costs, and waivers to adapt meal pattern requirements in response to disruptions to the food supply. In addition, USDA also will have the authority to allow child and adult care centers to operate as non-congregate sites.
In addition, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19. The Act includes $250 million for increases in meals provided by senior nutrition programs housed in the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living. Food banks and emergency food providers will also receive much-needed commodity support.
In this time of uncertainty, the House has done the right thing by passing this bill, which takes significant steps to make sure that hunger does not increase as our nation responds to COVID-19. USDA also should exercise all of its existing authority to leverage the resources of the federal safety net as broadly as possible to address COVID-19 challenges.
For 50 years, the Food Research & Action Center has been the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.