Statement of CSPI deputy director of federal affairs Colin Schwartz
The Center for Science in the Public Interest supports the House stimulus legislation that will provide much-needed relief to millions of families who rely on food assistance programs.
In particular, CSPI is pleased that these bills:
- Extend the 15 percent boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for three months from June to September 2021. We are also pleased to see the bill provides $25 million over five years to build the capacity to accept SNAP online. However, we are calling on Congress to increase the minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 and extend these increases through the longer-term economic downturn.
- Increase the value of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) fruit and vegetable benefits from $9 for children and $11 for women per month to $35 per month for both women and children during a four-month period.
- Extend the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to school age and young children for the summer and through the end of the COVID-19 health crisis. Those benefits provide families with the resources to purchase food to replace meals that children would have received through the child nutrition programs during normal times and were set to expire September 2021.
- Provide direct cash payments to those who need it most, extend and expand unemployment benefits, gradually increase the federal minimum wage, and substantially increase the child tax credit. Poverty worsens health outcomes, and these measures will put money in Americans’ pockets, further support healthy eating, and stimulate the economy.
We are, however, disappointed that the House legislation did not provide additional funding to cover budget shortfalls to school food service programs and childcare providers feeding low-income children through the pandemic. The last relief package passed by Congress included $820 million to help cover COVID-related emergency operational costs from March-June 2020, but this is clearly insufficient, as these costs have persisted since then.
We urge Congress to pass this recovery package quickly and work to strengthen these key priorities in future packages.