President Donald Trump on Wednesday night signed into law a COVID-19 relief package that expands domestic feeding programs and suspends the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s work requirements during the crisis.
The bill, which passed the Senate 90-8 Wednesday afternoon, would — among other things — authorize an emergency increase in SNAP benefits and provide $400 million in commodities and financial support to food banks.
Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had appealed to Republicans to support the package despite misgivings they might have.
“It is a well-intentioned bipartisan product, assembled by House Democrats and President Trump’s team that tries to stand up and expand some new relief measures for American workers,” McConnell said.
“This is a time for urgent, bipartisan action, and in this case I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers.”
Senators continue to work on a much broader stimulus bill that is expected to include direct payments to lower-paid Americans as well as assistance for small businesses, airlines and other sectors.
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Separately, the White House asked Congress for $45.8 billion in emergency spending USDA and other departments as well as new legal authority to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The relief package the Senate passed Wednesday is intended to ensure employees nationwide have paid sick leave during the outbreak while also providing for free testing for the virus and bolstering unemployment insurance.
The bill allows states to request approval from the Agriculture Department to provide emergency benefits to existing SNAP households worth up to their maximum monthly allotment. A special SNAP program was also implemented during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 and 2010. This version would be known as "CR-SNAP," for "COVID-19 response."
The bill also would provide $500 million though the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the outbreak.
Another $400 million would be put into The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to assist food banks. Of that amount, $300 million would be for purchases of food, with the remaining $100 million to cover storage and distribution costs.
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