As we start 2021 with many challenges ahead, some good news is that in late December Congress passed, and the President ultimately signed, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021. Included in the nearly 5,600 pages of legislation are many Food Assistance provisions that will help to lessen hunger and hardship in the coming months. Another plus? Increased food assistance provides tremendous “bang-for-the-buck” stimulus into our struggling economy.
Here is an overview of key nutrition provisions. The bill:
- Increases the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum benefit by 15 percent for the first six months of this year (Jan. 1 – June 30, 2021). The added benefits amount to about $27 more SNAP benefits per person per month, or just over $100 per month in food assistance for a family of four. The 15% SNAP boost will go out to Pennsylvania SNAP households later this month. Please see this flyer for details.
- While the 15% SNAP benefits you helped fight for will have the largest impact on food insecurity by very quickly getting food assistance into the hands of very low-income families and individuals, the bill also:
o Excludes the $300 a month in added Unemployment Insurance payments (authorized elsewhere in the bill) from consideration as income and resources in SNAP (an important change that did not apply to additional unemployment benefits in 2020);
o Expands SNAP to certain income-eligible college students who are eligible for a federal or state work study program or have an expected family contribution of zero under federal student financial aid rules;
o Adds $100 million for state agencies’ SNAP administrative expenses; and
o Provides $5 million to help the Department of Agriculture (USDA) expand the SNAP online purchasing program, support mobile payment technologies, and improve the security and integrity of the electronic benefit transfer system.
- Simplifies Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program so that states can reach many more children. The simplifications will enable states to more quickly reach low-income preschool and school-age children who, because of the pandemic, are likely to be missing out on meals they would usually get at school or childcare centers (note: CBPP estimates that 236,000 Pennsylvania children under age 6 could benefit from the bill’s P-EBT childcare simplification);
- Adds $400 million for emergency food assistance through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the federal program that provides food support to emergency feeding organizations, such as food banks and local food pantries;
- Increases funding for Older Americans Act nutrition services (including Meals on Wheels) by $175 million and extends certain program flexibilities; and
- Adds $13 million to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which is a food distribution program that provides food boxes mostly to the elderly.
In addition to the nutrition provisions above, we know other provisions in the bill are extremely important for our clients and communities. The bill also:
- Restores the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) supplement to all state and federal unemployment benefits at $300 per week for 11 weeks (ending March 14, 2021);
- Appropriates $25 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance that will be disbursed for programs run by state and local government entities (including U.S. territories, for Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, and with the District of Columbia treated as a state); and
- Extends the CDC eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021 (here is the CDC’s updated tenant self declaration form for anyone who may need it).
If you want more details, please see this division by division summary of the COVID relief provisions included in the omnibus package that provides a more comprehensive overview of the bill.