Tell the Senate to pass the HEROES Act and strengthen SNAP now!

Take Action to Strengthen SNAP Now! Tell your U.S. Senators to pas the HEROES Act and make sure everyone can afford food!The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or “Food Stamps”) is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. It’s important that SNAP benefits are able to meet people’s needs and that ALL households who need food assistance can participate.

Thank you to Senator Casey and those House members who have already signaled their ongoing support for SNAP by signing a letter to Congressional leaders endorsing SNAP benefits be increased during this emergency. This support has helped ensure that key increases to SNAP benefits are included in the new Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which the U.S. House is set to vote on this Friday, May 15.

Take action to support the following provisions that are part of the HEROES Act:

Increase the value of SNAP benefits. Current SNAP benefits are inadequate. The most a SNAP recipient can receive is $2.14 per meal, and it’s even less for larger families. Increasing SNAP benefits by 15% would improve the adequacy of SNAP and reduce burdens on the emergency food system.

Increase the minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30. Extra emergency SNAP allotments are set to end the month following the end of the emergency declaration. We know that there will be a period of recession afterwards. SNAP is a known booster to the economy during periods of recession, generating between $1.50 to $1.80 in economic activity per dollar spent. Increasing the minimum benefit will help stabilize families as they transition back to work and support the overall food economy.

Ensure that stabilizing payments, such as Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), do not count as income for SNAP. The temporary boost in unemployment benefits should not make households ineligible for SNAP benefits. Many Pennsylvanians are still waiting for their first PUA or UC payment, going six weeks without income while bills pile up. They can only expect PUC for three months; forcing families to lose SNAP during that time and then reapply after reduces the economic boosting impact of SNAP payments and places an unnecessary burden on state SNAP agencies.

Suspend implementation of all SNAP administrative rules that would terminate or weaken benefits. In 2019, USDA proposed three rule changes that would damage the ability of SNAP to respond to the rapidly growing need for nutritional assistance that has unfolded in the current crisis. We believe these rules were bad ideas in the first place. They certainly are not sound public policy to implement as households and our economy being a long road to recovery.

In addition to these provisions, it’s urgent that Congress support the following measures:

Ensure that ALL households receive an extra benefit payment to enable them to have adequate food supplies and full cupboards. Most SNAP households rely on food pantries to make it through the month and are not able to stock up. Congress authorized additional payments be made to SNAP households to address temporary food needs during the pandemic emergency, but that has been interpreted by the administration to mean that families can receive an extra payment to bring them up to the (inadequate) maximum benefit level. As a result, those most in need, who were already receiving the maximum benefit, are not getting any additional SNAP benefits during this crisis.

Enrolled college students should not be disqualified from SNAP due to unemployment. USDA will not allow states to waive the current work rules for college students. In order to receive help from SNAP, college students must work 20 hours a week or more in order to be eligible for SNAP benefits unless they meet certain exemptions. Students who had access to meal plans are now home with parents who are also likely facing economic stress. These students should be able to be included in the family’s SNAP household regardless of employment status. Students who live in their own apartments and have lost employment should be allowed to qualify. These rules exacerbate and intensify college hunger in normal times; during a pandemic and recession they are exceptionally cruel.

Congress should suspend the rule that bars adults with Legal Permanent Resident status from receiving SNAP for five years. Immigrants make up 6% of Pennsylvania’s population. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Pennsylvania’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all of us. Adults with permanent residency status are not eligible to participate in SNAP unless they have lived in the US for five years. This means that many permanent members of our community are not eligible for support during this crisis. While we believe that all Pennsylvanians – regardless of immigration status – deserve access to food assistance, lifting the 5-year bar is one small pragmatic step towards helping Pennsylvanians have adequate nutrition.

This action is sponsored by:

Chester County Food Bank, Coalition Against Hunger, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Hunger-Free PA, Just Harvest, PA Council of Churches, Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, The Food Trust

 

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