Statement attributed to Luis Guardia, president, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, October 2, 2020 — Now that the president has signed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that includes $8 billion for nutrition assistance, the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use its authority from the CR to take immediate action to issue critical waivers. Among these are: to extend nationwide child nutrition waivers beyond the current December 31 deadline to Fiscal Year 2021, issue guidance to states on Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT), grant states additional flexibilities for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) operations, and extend current waivers for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
On September 21, FRAC along with nearly 1,400 national, state, and local organizations sent a letter asking USDA to extend all child nutrition waivers through the rest of the 2020-2021 school year. By extending all waivers throughout the school year, schools and program operators will have the ability to efficiently and easily provide meals to children.
Quick action is particularly needed around P-EBT, an innovative program that provides families who rely on free and reduced-price meals an EBT card to purchase food from grocery stores. Since its implementation, families have shared with us the importance of P-EBT, saying it has lifted the burden of choosing between feeding their families and paying the bills. FRAC calls on USDA to issue guidance on P-EBT soon so states can extend their program through the school year and have the flexibilities and support needed to reach remote-learning and hybrid-learning students who are missing out on school meals and meals provided by childcare, as well as young children missing out on childcare provided meals due to COVID-related closures.
The CR provides state SNAP agencies with needed flexibilities to adjust operations during COVID-19. It allows states, without obtaining prior USDA approval, to opt for many of the waivers that were made available earlier in COVID-19. These include waivers on deadlines for SNAP interviews, participant reporting, and eligibility recertifications. During a challenging time of remote program operations and increased need for benefits, these are among the adjustments that can help ease workload burdens on agencies and streamline SNAP access for people eligible for SNAP. USDA should accommodate additional state SNAP agency requests for needed flexibilities during this crisis.
The CR also gives the USDA the authority to extend WIC administrative waivers including waiving the requirement for in-person WIC clinic visits through September 30, 2021.
These temporary investments are small but important steps to helping millions of families put food on the table. FRAC endorses the updated HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives that includes much-needed benefit boosts to SNAP in order to reduce the number of hungry households and to stimulating the economy, as well as other important provisions.
We urge Congress to continue making these investments by enacting a longer-term comprehensive COVID-19 recovery package that addresses the ongoing economic fallout from the pandemic.
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. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.