America’s new president Joe Biden has announced a raft of measures addressing the nation’s complex food crisis.
They have been folded into to his response to the implications of the Covid pandemic.
A White House statement on January 22nd said, “29 million adults – and at least 8 million children – are struggling with food insecurity.
“Because of pervasive systemic racism and inequality in our economy, the burdens of this economic crisis are hitting communities of color and other underserved families hardest… ”
The action would “help working families feed their children and keep a roof over their head…”
The United States Department of Agriculture responded with announcements in kind.
Stacy Dean, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services said, “As soon as the President took office, he called for immediate action on the hunger crisis gripping vulnerable families and children.
“The announcement provides more food dollars directly to food insecure kids living in low-income households who are missing critical meals due to school closures.”
“The benefits fall short of what a healthy, adequate diet costs for many households”
The Covid Economic Relief Executive Order is designed to, “address the growing hunger crisis facing 29 million adults — and as many as 12 million children.”
The White House statement says, “Across the country 1 in 7 households, and more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households, report that their household is struggling to secure the food they need.
“In December, Congress bolstered food assistance programs and provided new funding for food banks and school and child care meals. But these measures alone will not solve the growing hunger crisis in America.
“As part of his American Rescue Plan proposal, President Biden is calling on Congress to provide additional support to ensure that all Americans, regardless of background, have access to healthy, affordable groceries by extending the 15% Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase, investing $3 billion to help women, infants and children get the food they need, and other key steps.
“The President is also asking the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider taking the following steps to provide nutrition assistance to working families, including to:
1/ Increase access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures
Established under Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) connects low-income families with kids with food dollars equivalent to the value of the school meals missed due to COVID-related school closures.
To date, the program has only allowed P-EBT benefit amounts up to $5.70 per child per school day and many households have had trouble claiming benefits.
To address these concerns and expand needed relief, the President is asking USDA to consider issuing new guidance increasing P-EBT benefits by approximately 15% to accurately reflect the costs of missing meals and make it easier for households to claim benefits. For instance, this action could provide a family with three children more than $100 of additional support every two months.
2/ Allow larger emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotments for the lowest-income households
Congress authorized emergency increases to SNAP benefits to help address food insecurity during the pandemic.
So far, those benefit increases have not been made available to all of the lowest income households. USDA will consider issuing new guidance that would allow states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for those who need it most. This would be the first step to ensuring that an additional 12 million people get enhanced SNAP benefits to keep nutritious food on the table.
3/ Update food assistance benefits to reflect the true cost of a basic healthy diet
More than 40 million Americans count on SNAP to help put food on the table. Currently, however, USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for determining SNAP benefits, is out of date with the economic realities most struggling households face when trying to buy and prepare healthy food.
As a result, the benefits fall short of what a healthy, adequate diet costs for many households. Therefore, as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill, the President will ask USDA to consider beginning the process of revising the Thrifty Food Plan to better reflect the modern cost of a healthy basic diet.
4/ Ensure equitable and effective delivery of direct payments
As the President fights to get Americans the full $2,000 in direct payments they deserve, his administration is also working to ensure that all those who are eligible receive their full payments.
Many Americans faced challenges receiving the first round of direct payments and as many as eight million eligible households did not receive the payments issued in March.
In December, Congress passed legislation that would provide Americans with $600 in stimulus. The President’s American Rescue Plan proposes an additional $1,400 per-person payments to ensure that households get the support they need to help pay bills, put food on the table, and support small businesses and their communities.
While Treasury and career staff at the IRS have worked tirelessly to deliver two rounds of payments in the midst of a pandemic, the work is far from over.
To ensure equitable and effective delivery of direct payments and focus on getting relief to eligible individuals who have not received the financial assistance to which they are entitled, the President is asking the Department of Treasury to consider taking a series of actions to expand and improve delivery of Economic Impact Payments including establishing online tools for claiming their payments, working to make sure that those who have not yet accessed their funds get the relief they deserve, and analyzing unserved households to inform additional outreach efforts.”