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Shaheen Calls on Senate Leadership to Strengthen Food Assistance Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) keeps food on the table, families from slipping into poverty 

(WASHINGTON, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter this week with a group of twenty-one lawmakers, urging Senate leadership to support and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help ensure families in New Hampshire and across America can put food on the table despite the mounting economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

“SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and is proven to help lifts millions of American families and children out of poverty,” the Senators wrote. “The latest estimate by the Census Bureau found that SNAP lifted 3.4 million people out of poverty in 2018 including 1.5 million children. Given the unprecedented disruption to the economy, income and employment with more than 17 million Americans filing unemployment benefit claims, an expanded and strengthened SNAP can serve as a buffer for families who are now at risk of food insecurity and are struggling to make ends meet during this national health crisis.” 

“We can avert the risk of poverty and food insecurity among American families and children while improving our chances for an economic rebound by investing in SNAP,” the Senators continued.

Specifically, the Senators requested the following provisions be included in upcoming coronavirus relief legislation:

  • Increase the maximum SNAP benefit for all recipients by increasing the thrifty food plan by at least 15 percent to all households, which is equivalent to another $25 per person per month, or a little under $100 per month in food assistance for a family of four.
  • Increase the monthly minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 to all households. This will go a long way in helping older Americans, single persons, and family households keep food on the table.
  • Suspend the harmful rules proposed by USDA that would weaken SNAP eligibility and benefits at time when Americans need SNAP assistance.
  • Provide additional options and investments to support delivery for SNAP participants.

Senator Shaheen joined Senators Merkley (D-OR) and Murphy (D-CT) on this letter, as well as Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Casey (D-PA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The full text of the Senators’ letter is available here.

Senator Shaheen voted in favor of four economic response bills to provide financial relief to states in their COVID-19 response efforts, and has supported numerous efforts to prioritize food assistance and combat food insecurity. Shaheen was a lead negotiator on the small business provisions of the CARES Act, for which certain nonprofits qualify to apply for assistance. Earlier this month, Senator Shaheen announced $11.7 million in additional funding to assist New Hampshire’s vulnerable homeless population and provide support to food banks and other community services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shaheen has also called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help dairy farmers and the producers of specialty crops, as well as farmers that support local food systems, underscoring the increased demand at food banks and how such a policy would support farmers and also provide food for those in need. And in the Democratic Weekly Address, Shaheen reaffirmed the urgent need for bipartisan cooperation on future coronavirus response legislation to combat food insecurity and ensure Americans have access to the assistance they need to put food on the table.

Additionally, bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Shaheen was signed into law last month to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, which will strengthen and increase funding for Meals on Wheels and other programs critical to older Americans.