Dear Friends,

Hunger is preventable. Our fight to end hunger in the lives of individuals and families  across the region wouldn’t be possible without your dedicated support!  Food insecurity is a symptom of poverty and therefore we work to ensure people have information about supportive services and other programs they need to support themselves and their families. We invite you to join the Coalition at the Night to Fight Hunger Virtual Gala, November 12th at 6:30 pm, to celebrate and support our fight to end hunger in the Philadelphia region! The Gala is FREE TO ALL and will stream on Facebook and YouTube Live. Our silent auction starts TODAY at 12 NOON and will feature new items every week up to the Gala event on November 12th! Click here to view our silent auction, make a donation or register to attend

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

Today marks 4 days until Election Day on Tuesday, November 3rd! Our elected and appointed government representatives make major decisions that heavily impact the lives of Americans fighting hunger everyday. This election season we have partnered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania to inform individuals across the region of their rights as voters, to ensure they have a safe experience while casting their vote.  If you need assistance or have any questions about the upcoming election, watch our Virtual Voter Rights Town Hall (click “show more” to view the list of questions and topics) held in partnership with the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

For any question related to voting call 866OURVOTE(866-687-8683) or email votes@aclupa.org!

Map of all mail-in drop boxes and election office locations in Philadelphia  

 

Food Pantry and Soup Kitchens

If you are still looking to volunteer

As we mentioned in last week’s newsletter, there are fewer requests for volunteers during the holiday season this year due to health and safety concerns during the pandemic. Therefore, we encourage you to consider showing your support by providing monetary and/or food donations.  Many programs are still giving out food, but they are doing so with fewer volunteers and in new ways that do not include a sit-down meal. However, volunteer assistance is still needed at some sites.  To view some volunteer opportunities in Philadelphia during the holidays and beyond, click here.  Please be sure to contact each program first to ensure you are able to follow their safety protocols.

 

SNAP Hotline

We continue to help individuals and households navigate the SNAP application process and are now seeing an increase in our call volume as many families have far fewer dollars due to the end of enhanced unemployment benefits. Our SNAP Hotline operates Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at 215-430-0556.  

SNAP Hotline Story

A caller  reached out to our SNAP Hotline seeking assistance with the amount of benefits he was receiving, “I’m only getting $90 a month, it's not enough”, he told Alejandra, our SNAP Case Manager. Upon investigation Alejandra learned that the CAO (County Assistance Office) only had records of our client’s income, but not his expenses. Each month our client received $836 in SSI (Social Security Income). His monthly expenses include: $400 in child support, $350 for rent, cell phone bill, copayment for medication, as well as food and other basics.  Rent and child support alone take nearly 90% of his income! After those two expenses, he is left with just $86 for all other monthly costs. After learning of this Alejandra  submitted the new information. The following week the client called back to tell us that he spoke with a CAO representative, and he will receive retroactive benefits for October and the maximum amount of SNAP benefits for a household of one person ($204) starting in November. “His benefits were not enough, but that shouldn’t stop us” said Alejandra when she recalled her clients' excitement. Our team who operate the SNAP Hotline continue to go beyond the scope of submitting SNAP applications to ensure each client receives the full benefits for which they are eligible - and that they so often desperately need. 

 

Policy and Advocacy  

As in past weeks, another report has been released to confirm rising food insecurity across America. While the release of stimulus checks and supplements to unemployment benefits helped ease high levels of hardship reported when the pandemic struck in March, the Urban Institute’s most recent Coronavirus Tracking Survey (fielded September 11–28, 2020) confirms that food hardship levels have edged back up after stimulus checks were spent and  enhanced unemployment benefits expired. Some of the key findings include:

  • The share of adults reporting food insecurity in the past month edged back up to 19.6% in September (from 17.9% in May)
  •  Job loss makes matters worse. Among those who said they or a spouse/partner lost a job, the rate of food insecurity was nearly four in ten (37.1%) in September, up from 33.6% in May
  • Once again, data consistently show significant racial/ethnic disparities in food insecurity. In September, Black adults (28.2%) and Hispanic/Latinx adults (30.5%) reported rates that were roughly double that of white adults (14.7%).

Families are not just tightening their belts – they are unable to cover the basics. Our friends at Propel, creators of Fresh EBT, (a free mobile app that helps millions of families manage their SNAP benefits, surveyed nearly 3,000 Fresh EBT users from September 1 - 14, 2020. The graphic below was featured in the five key insights of survey findings. When asked to pick one area of support that would be most useful during the pandemic, the vast majority – 86% – responded that they would want help with rent (34.1%), utilities (26.5%), and food (25.3%).

No matter what the results of election day next week, we must continue to educate our elected officials on the depth of the crisis unfolding in blue, red, and purple communities across the country. We all have to urge Congress to act quickly to provide COVID relief so that families get the help they need to keep a roof over their heads, lights and heat in their homes, and food on the table!

Given how difficult affording these basics has become for far too many, we offer some resources and updates: 

On utilities: LIHEAP provides assistance to low-income homeowners and renters for home heating bills. The gross income limit for the program is 150% of the Federal Poverty Limit ($39,300 per year). Applications for LIHEAP cash and crisis benefits begin November 2 and end on April 9, 2021 and can be completed online at www.compass.state.pa.us or through the MyCOMPASS PA android or apple mobile apps (only for previous LIHEAP recipients that received a pre-season enrollment reminder). In addition, a list of Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Energy Centers that provide assistance can be found here.

It’s important to note, come early November, more families may be receiving utility shut-off notices. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania lifted a moratorium on service terminations that had been put in place at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Starting on Nov. 9, utility companies will be allowed to shut off service of non-paying customers. However, rules still prevent utilities from shutting off “protected customers” (those with income at or below 300% of poverty, which is $78,600 for a family of four). Protected customers must apply for available assistance and request a payment arrangement to pay down their debt. For more information, see information from CLS in English and Spanish.

On food: We continue to follow the ongoing developments in the lawsuit CLS filed against USDA concerning SNAP Emergency Allotments (EAs). Back in September, the judge had granted an injunction ordering USDA to approve Pennsylvania’s request for EAs to households receiving the maximum SNAP benefit level for their household.  Since that time, while USDA stated it will approve PA’s request as directed by the court order, it is also pursuing an appeal. USDA has told DHS that it may seek reimbursement from the PA State Treasury (not recipients) for the millions of dollars in EAs if its appeal is successful. DHS is working to understand the implications of this, including whether USDA can seek reimbursement at all. As a result, EAs for households who are receiving the maximum SNAP benefit remain on hold. Earlier this week, we provided comment in a Politico article that highlighted the PA case, as well as the Trump administration’s fight to block states from giving emergency SNAP relief to the poorest families during the crisis 

Lastly, we want to share this warning issued by DHS yesterday about a potential scam involving Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits. The bottom line reminder is that government agencies do not ask for clients’ personal information in any unsolicited or random calls or texts. Pennsylvanians should not reply to such a call or text or share any personal information if they are contacted this way. If clients have concerns about whether a call, text, letter, or other communication is legitimate, they should contact the one of the Customer Service Centers (215-560-7226 in Philadelphia, or, 877-395-8930 Statewide).

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

We strive to build a community where all people have the food they need to lead healthy lives. Hunger is preventable. Thank you for your continued support of our work! 

The Coalition Against Hunger Team

Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger
123 Chestnut Street Suite 401 | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
215-430-0555 | info@hungercoalition.org

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