An extension of the 15% boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and more money for the Women, Infants and Children program are included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package President-elect Joe Biden plans to propose to Congress.
Ahead of Biden's planned Thursday speech, his transition team released details of the relief package, which also includes support for legislation called the FEED Act to partner with restaurants in feeding the needy.
"As I speak, one in 7 households in America — more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households — report they don’t have enough food to eat," Biden said in a speech. "This includes 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children. It’s wrong, it’s tragic, it's unnecessary, it’s unacceptable.”
His speech veered from the fact sheet when he said he would keep the 15% SNAP increase in place through the end of the year.
“While the December down payment provided $13 billion to strengthen and expand federal nutrition programs, it will not solve the hunger crisis in America,” a summary of Biden’s proposal says, referring to funding in the relief package approved by Congress last month. “President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to ensure all Americans, regardless of background, have access to healthy, affordable groceries.”
The package also includes $350 billion in aid to state and local governments and asks for funding to launch a national vaccination program. In addition, Biden “is calling on Congress to authorize the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a COVID-19 Protection Standard that covers a broad set of workers, so that workers not typically covered by OSHA, like many public workers on the frontlines, also receive protection from unsafe working conditions and retaliation,” according to the transition team.
Biden is also calling on employers “to meet their obligations to frontline essential workers and provide back hazard pay,” the summary says.
“Essential workers — who are disproportionately Black, Latino, and Asian American and Pacific Islander — have risked their lives to stock shelves, harvest crops, and care for the sick during this crisis,” the summary of his relief package says. “They have kept the country running even during the darkest days of the pandemic.”
But “a number of large employers, especially in the retail and grocery sectors, have … yet done little or nothing at all to compensate their workers for the risks they took,” despite experiencing “bumper profitability.”
“The president-elect believes these employers have a duty to do right by their frontline essential workers and acknowledge their sacrifices with generous back hazard pay for the risks they took across 2020 and up to today,” the relief summary says. “(Biden) and the vice president-elect will call on CEOs and other business leaders to take action to meet these obligations.”
The package would extend the SNAP benefits increase through the summer, “when childhood hunger spikes due to a lack of school meals,” the Biden team said. “This change will help keep hunger at bay for around 40 million Americans.”
Biden “is also committed to providing this boost for as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues, and will work with Congress on ways to automatically adjust the length and amount of relief depending on health and economic conditions so future legislative delay doesn’t undermine the recovery and families’ access to benefits they need,” the fact sheet notes.
Also included in the package is a $3 billion “multi-year investment” in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC. The money “is needed to account for increased enrollment due to growing hunger and to increase outreach to ensure that low-income families have access to high-quality nutritious food and nutrition education.”
In addition, Biden’s proposal would temporarily cut the state match for the SNAP program. “The president-elect is calling for a one time emergency infusion of administrative support for state anti-hunger and nutrition programs to ensure that benefits get to the kids and families that need it most,” the fact sheet says.
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Another $1 billion in nutritional assistance would go to U.S. territories Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The FEED Act — for FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries — "boosts the federal government cost share to state and local governments to 100% so that they can partner with restaurants and nonprofits to prepare nutritious meals for vulnerable individuals,” according to a news release from representatives Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif.
The bill “aims to provide nutritious meals to people in need in response to the coronavirus crisis,” they said. It waves current provisions in a law called the Stafford Act to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 100% of the cost of emergency and disaster-related expenses, instead of 75%.
“This would eliminate any state costs during the COVID-19 crisis and allow more states to take a proactive approach to distributing meals and providing more financial relief to restaurants,” they said.
The bill was introduced with 28 original co-sponsors. It is endorsed by World Central Kitchen, Share Our Strength, the California Farm Bureau Federation, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and the National Restaurant Association.
“Today more than ever we have a huge win-win opportunity in front of us: cities and states around the country can work with the federal government to keep restaurants working and communities fed,” said José Andrés, head of World Central Kitchen.
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