Pointing to the success of the SNAP food assistance program during the coronavirus pandemic, economists on Monday said Republicans’ plan to end the expansion of the aid would be “unconscionable.”
As the New York Times reported, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program saw an unprecedented growth in demand as the coronavirus outbreak began, with 17% more Americans, or six million people, relying on the program in the first three months of the pandemic.
At least 41 states saw an increase in the use of SNAP, which was expanded to allow people to use the benefits with fewer restrictions. Thirty states experienced double-digit growth, with more people relying on food aid across suburbs, urban areas, and rural towns.
“We can do more to address hardship. SNAP is a powerful platform that can help.”
—Stacy Dean, CBPP
The expansion came after Congress passed legislation in March allowing all recipients to use the maximum aid allowed for their household size—permitting a household of three people to use $509 per month to buy groceries.
States were also temporarily able to enroll people without conducting interviews and to suspend reviews of existing applicants, but the suspension of those reviews has since ended.
People who have relied on the program in recent months told the Times that it had immensely helped their family’s physical and psychological well-being during a time of uncertainty and rising food insecurity. Unlike the $600 per week boost in unemployment benefits that passed as part of the CARES Act in March, SNAP recipients did not face lengthy delays in accessing the benefits.
“It was the first safety net, because that’s what I could count on,” MaKayela Johnson, who was furloughed from her job at a medical office in Kentucky, told the Times.
“SNAP delivered,” tweeted TalkPoverty.org, an anti-poverty project of the Center for American Progress. “Like it always does.”
Six million Americans turned to SNAP for help in the first three months of the pandemic.
Like it always does. https://t.co/pZFhz85YYr
— TalkPoverty.org (@TalkPoverty) July 20, 2020
The Times report comes a month after two studies separately concluded that the $600 unemployment benefits combined with the $1,200 direct payment sent to some Americans significantly reduced poverty levels in the U.S. in the first months of the pandemic.
Despite the success of both programs, Republicans want to end their expansion at the end of this month. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) said this week that the SNAP program should be expanded further, with the maximum benefit increased. Democrats in Congress have called for a 15% increase due to skyrocketing food prices.
“SNAP goes a long way towards alleviating hunger but doesn’t eliminate it because the benefits aren’t high enough,” Dottie Rosenbaum of the CBPP told the Times. “Omitting a boost in SNAP benefits would be an unconscionable failure.”
President Donald Trump has spent considerable time during his term pushing to impose work requirements and narrow eligibility criteria for the program, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue planned to implement the work rules on April 1, two weeks after the pandemic was declared a national emergency, before a federal judge blocked him from doing so.
Last week, the CBPP explained a number of reasons, beyond elevated food prices, that SNAP must be expanded as the pandemic and its effects on the economy persist.
Many of the poorest households didn’t receive any benefit from the SNAP expansion, as they were already receiving the maximum benefit, explained Brynne Keith-Jennings, senior research analyst for the think tank.
“Low-income households generally experience the harshest impacts of economic downturns, and it often takes longer for the benefits of the recovery to reach them,” Keith-Jennings wrote. “Extending SNAP relief as long as the economy remains weak will help families put food on the table while their income remains low.”
On Twitter Monday, CBPP’s vice president for food assistance policy, Stacy Dean, wrote that “SNAP matters now more than ever.”
“We can do more to address hardship. SNAP is a powerful platform that can help,” Dean added. “An increase would help continue to reduce poverty and lessen the rise in food insecurity.”
‘Not gonna work!’: A Republican tried to promote masks — and got angrily booed by Trump voters
Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted of Ohio learned quickly on Monday that President Donald Trump’s voters aren’t ready for even mildly encouraging statements about wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.
He appeared ahead of the president at a Trump rally in Ohio, and he tried to promote a series of Trump-branded masks. To the attendees’ credit, his speech was pretty condescending. Husted seemed to think he could convince them to wear face masks — which have become demonized on the right — just because they were branded with Trump logos.
But Husted was at least trying to encourage healthy behavior among his voters, which Trump has repeatedly declined to do. Experts agree masks are one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of the respiratory virus, and the fact that this advice has become anathema to large swaths of the country — primarily supporters of the president — is extremely dangerous on its own terms and disturbing for what it says about our politics.
‘It affects elderly people … that’s it’: Trump falsely downplays coronavirus to Ohio supporters
At a rally in Ohio on Monday, President Donald Trump falsely claimed that coronavirus only affects the elderly, and that young people don't die from the illness.
Trump: "We now know the disease... it affects elderly people with heart problems and other problems. That's what it really effects. That's it."
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) September 22, 2020
Ron DeSantis pushes bill legally protecting drivers who run over members of ‘a mob’
On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed a bill that would aggressively crack down on the right to protest — and protect drivers from liability if they run over members of "a mob" in the course of trying to escape.
Today I announced bold legislation that creates new criminal offenses and increases penalties for those who target law enforcement and participate in violent or disorderly assemblies. We will always stand with our men and women in uniform who keep our communities safe. pic.twitter.com/ITl5GmmrZJ