As we lean into the green phase of reopening, we are beginning to hear a level of increased anxiety from those we serve. With the additional funds from the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) due to expire July 25, catastrophic job loss, and the prospect of COVID-19 resurgence in many areas, enormous uncertainty continues to fuel fear of what’s to come. As we evaluate how to best help fill the gaps, we are focusing on summer meals, gathering stories and data to support the national call for a 15% increase in SNAP benefits, and of course continuing our work to connect households to the food resources they need. Plus, we’re trying to remain aware of and link our clients to additional supports, such as the newly available CARES assistance for Pennsylvanians in need of rent or mortgage relief.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, provides funding for a range of programs to help people hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Pennsylvania, $175 million is slated to prevent evictions and foreclosures. Renters and homeowners who are struggling to pay rent because of income lost to COVID-19 can get up to six months of assistance. Application submission began on July 6 and will continue through September 30. For an application and more details, see http://phfa.org/pacares/- or – contact the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s call center at 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466). Staff is available to answer questions on the toll free line from 8 am – 5 pm weekdays (callers should listen for the prompt mentioning CARES assistance for renters and homeowners).
This week we worked in the following ways to address food insecurity across the region . . .
On the Advocacy and Policy front, on Thursday, we participated in a Food Insecurity Stakeholders Tele-Roundtable with Senator Bob Casey to discuss the challenges that our clients and communities are facing. Everyone agreed on the utmost importance of including a 15% increase to SNAP benefits in the next federal coronavirus response bill, as well as on intensifying our efforts to make that happen! In addition, following the lead of our national partners, we are pressing Congress to take immediate steps to make sure the millions of Americans hard-hit by the crisis get the help they need and that our economy rebounds by:
Continuing the expanded federal unemployment benefits that will soon expire;
Prioritizing the basics by providing temporary increases in housing assistance and the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits that will help people make ends meet;
Creating an emergency fund for states to help people who are falling through the cracks and to create subsidized jobs programs when workers can participate safely; and,
Protecting other critical public services — such as education, job training, and public transit — that we all rely on by providing more federal aid to states and localities.
The SNAP Hotline is starting to receive calls from those receiving the extra $600 of pandemic unemployment which is set to expire the end of July. Callers are asking to apply for SNAP benefits in anticipation of losing these extra dollars at the end of the month. Unfortunately, SNAP mandates a waiting period of 30 days after you lose your income before you can apply for SNAP. Our SNAP Hotline team continues to answer these and many other questions through our SNAP Hotline at 215-430-0556, Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Each year the Race Against Hunger provides a fundraising platform for local Food Pantry and Soup Kitchens, to raise the dollars they need to support their programs. This year was a challenge with the necessary shift to a virtual event, as well as the closing of churches and other gatherings where partners typically raise dollars. Despite these challenges, 44 teams participated and raised over $30,000.
SNAP STORY With Congress set to consider another Covid-19 response bill in the coming weeks, the push for a temporary 15% SNAP increase is ramping up. As part of that push, we've conducted a survey of SNAP users statewide to gather stories to send to Congress. Here's one powerful story that shows just how important a 15% SNAP increase would be to families across the both the region and the country:
"[With schools closed,] I had to call my mom and ask her if she could help out or if I had to go to different food banks just to make sure it was good in the house for my kids to eat. If I were allotted more SNAP benefits, I wouldn't have to sacrifice me eating just to make sure my kids have good portion sizes during meal time. I wouldn't have to rely on my mom or food banks if SNAP benefits were increased. We all need an increase in SNAP benefits because a lot of recipients run out half way through the month."