The Greater Boston Food Bank Statement on the Release of the House of Representatives’ Updated HEROES Act

The Greater Boston Food Bank Statement on the Release of the House of Representatives’ Updated HEROES Act

The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) strongly supports the updated HEROES Act released by the U.S. House Democrats on September 28, 2020. The comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill includes the anti-hunger community’s key priorities and much-needed benefit boosts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including:

  • Boosts SNAP maximum benefits by 15 percent through Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, including the Puerto Rico and American Samoa block grant (NAP) versions of SNAP
  • Increases the SNAP minimum monthly benefit from $16 to $30 through FY 2021.

The bill also makes investments in other vital nutrition programs:

  • Temporarily suspends SNAP time limits for certain adults, mandatory SNAP employment and training
  • Provides $300 million in funding for states’ SNAP administrative expenses over FY 2021 and FY 2022 to manage the increased number of applicants
  • Provides that college students are not barred from accessing SNAP benefits for lack of work study or job engagement during the pandemic
  • Excludes Pandemic Unemployment from counting against SNAP benefit eligibility
  • Permits SNAP benefits for purchasing hot prepared foods from authorized retailers until the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency
  • Provides financial relief for childcare providers, sponsoring organizations, and schools
  • Allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to temporarily increase Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Cash Value Vouchers up to $35 per month to help families purchase more fruits and vegetables
  • Provides additional funding to programs to respond to increased costs, including $10 billion for SNAP, $400 million for WIC, $450 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and more funding for nutrition assistance for U.S. territories

This past year, GBFB and our 550 partners across Eastern Massachusetts have served more than 80 million meals. Yet, for every food bank meal provided in Massachusetts, SNAP provides five. Strengthening this proven program is critical to helping millions of people afford the nutrition they need. SNAP is designed to respond quickly and effectively to address the growing need. And, for every $1 spent with SNAP, $1.70is generated in economic activity, which will help everyone in Massachusetts during this economic downturn.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the GBFB network has reported, on average, a 91% increase in clients served. Statewide, the SNAP caseload increased by 15 percent — to over half a million households. As the capacity of food banks has been stretched more than we have ever thought possible, we are pleased that the bill aims to strengthen our ability to do what we do best: feed families.

More than ever, we need our lawmakers to come together and pass a bill that strengthens every tool at our disposal to significantly curb hunger in our country. We urge the U.S. Senate to pass this updated HEROES Act before the October recess.

As we said with our state partners last week: Failure is not an option. Congress must act now.

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