CHN: Long-Awaited SNAP Increases and Other Nutrition Aid

Anti-hunger advocates had pressed for a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/formerly called food stamps) maximum benefits since the onset of the pandemic.  Although some increases in SNAP were provided earlier, this basic increase was not agreed to until this new package, which provides it for six months.  The bill also excludes unemployment benefits from being counted as income in determining SNAP benefits and eligibility, and allows income-eligible college students to qualify for SNAP.  The COVID relief provisions also increase SNAP administrative support by $100 million, to help cope with the rising caseload. 

The bill also provides $614 million in urgently needed nutrition grants to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.   

There are also important expansions in Pandemic EBT, allowing children under six to qualify when child care is closed due to the coronavirus.  This program has provided debit cards to families with school-age children so they can purchase food to replace the school meals their children aren’t receiving when schools shut down.  The bill also adds emergency funding for the Child and Adult Care Food Program to help child care providers and other service providers to replace lost reimbursements from the lockdown periods of last Spring.  A task force will be formed to support online delivery systems for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food programs. 

There is also additional funding for Older Americans Act programs providing congregate and home-delivered meals, and more funds for the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (the latter providing home-delivered meals to seniors). 

In addition to the COVID-related emergency nutrition aid, SNAP receives FY21 funding of $114 billion, an increase of $46 billion more than the previous year, in the regular Department of Agriculture appropriations bill.  The increase is necessary because caseloads have risen substantially due to the impact of the pandemic recession.  Child nutrition programs also gain funding in FY21 regular appropriations: an increase of $1.5 billion above the FY20 enacted level (to $25.1 billion).  These programs provide free and reduced-price school meals. Funding of $552 million is provided for the Summer Food Service Program for students in low-income families when school is out.  The FY21 WIC appropriation is level-funded at $6 billion. The regular appropriations level for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program rises to $325 million, up a substantial $80 million over the previous year.