Article By: Deanna Jessop, SNAP-Ed Evaluation Manager
SAN ANTONIO | June 18, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has created the need for the federal government to provide support to Americans coming to terms with the economic realities of this unprecedented event. Efforts such as economic stimulus payments, the Payroll Protection Program, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act have helped families across the country; however, more must be done to help families who are most vulnerable, including many who faced economic difficulty even before COVID-19 hit.
Together, with like-minded organizations across the nation, Common Threads urges House, and now Senate leaders, to enhance the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through the Health and Economic Recovery omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) which (1) increases the maximum benefit for each household by 15 percent and (2) increases the minimum benefit from $16 to $30, while (3) suspending time limits that will negatively impact recipients’ benefits and overall eligibility.
The passing of the FFCRA, was a critical first step, but families need more. It authorized emergency SNAP benefits and the issuance of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), a one-time allotment for those that lost access to their free or reduced-price lunch as a result of school closures due to COVID-19. However, it failed to increase support for households that have already received their maximum benefit, or those already identified as having the greatest need.
With increased joblessness and limited access to healthy, affordable food, the need for SNAP has reached an all-time high. SNAP provides those with low or no income with temporary access to nutritious food while ensuring the protection of vulnerable populations such as children, individuals with disabilities, elderly and those experiencing homelessness.
Not only do recipients benefit from SNAP, the economy benefits as well. A research study, conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS), examined the possible impact on “a slowing economy” after increasing SNAP benefits by $1 billion. The result was “a stimulus effect of $1.54 billion in gross domestic product (GDP).” Given the economic strain COVID-19 has placed on our economy, and according to this study, increasing SNAP benefits would not only result in increased economic stimulus, but also buffer further job loss, and boost employment.
The impact of COVID-19 has resulted in numerous first-time SNAP recipients who will not only gain access to nutritious food, but will need to learn how to manage and optimize their new SNAP benefits, which is possible through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). SNAP-ED utilizes evidence-based nutrition education programs that share knowledge and information with households utilizing SNAP benefits, such as reading and interpreting food labels, which help beneficiaries make healthier food choices. As a provider of SNAP-Ed in New York, Pennsylvania and Texas, Common Threads has evaluated its programs and knows that direct nutrition education leads to improved nutritional knowledge, increased consumption of nutritious foods, and enhanced food budgeting strategies.
Common Threads joined well-known advocacy groups such as Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) by urging Congress and White House Administration to expand P-EBT and the SNAP online purchasing pilot while increasing distribution sites, which will also result in economic stimulus.
Now, we are joining other food security and nutrition education organizations to advocate for the HEROES Act. At the time of posting, the HEROES Act was passed by the House and rests in the hands of the Senate. Reach out to Senators from your state and encourage them to pass the HEROES Act. The time to act is now.
Common Threads was founded in Chicago in 2003 by CEO Linda Novick O’Keefe, celebrity chef Art Smith and his husband, artist Jesus Salgueiro, as a way to bring under-resourced children together, help them celebrate different cultures and teach them about healthy nutrition. From its humble beginnings in a church basement, Common Threads now services children and families in 12 markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Pittsburgh, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, El Paso and Erie. For more information, visit commonthreads.org or search #CookingForLife on social media.