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USDA’s COVID-19 Food Aid Limits Can Continue For Now

“But Alexander Baughan Prieto of the Western Center on Law & Poverty argued on behalf of the proposed class that the plain language of the statute suggests that Congress didn’t intend to restrict food aid to the neediest during the crisis, although he acknowledged that there is sparse legislative history in the record on lawmakers’ intent in drafting the emergency statute.”

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Federal Judge Denies Removal of Cap on Food Assistance Program Amid Pandemic

“At a hearing on the matter last week, attorney Alexander Prieto with the Western Center on Law & Poverty said the USDA’s interpretation of the FFCRA “seems to rest on the presumption that the max monthly allotment is sufficient in all circumstances, and that Congress assumed that was all that was necessary to put everyone up to the maximum monthly allotment.”

Pandemic Doesn’t Justify Lifting Cap on Food Stamps, Judge Rules

California wants to feed students’ families. The USDA says no. Some states are doing it anyway.

“Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said when schools are open, they serve more families and different families than the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, widely known as food stamps.

When schools are on summer break and families continue to go to school for grab-and-go meals, “it’s … because they really need to,” Bartholow said. “What we know is people will do anything to prevent their kids from going hungry, including forgoing food themselves. When parents are hungry, those kids aren’t better off.”

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As Jobless Claims Soar, More Restaurants Might Finally Be Able to Accept SNAP Benefits

“In a letter on April 2, Sen. Murphy called on USDA director Sonny Perdue to expand RMP participation to all SNAP recipients until the end of the COVID-19 emergency. So has the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which has advocated for SNAP RMP expansion for over a decade. But the USDA hasn’t budged. “It’s a failure to lead in a time of crisis,” says Jessica Bartholow, a WCLP policy advocate.

Now Murphy and Panetta hope to legislate the solution. The National Restaurant Association, the National Council of Chain Restaurants, and Congressional Hunger Center have all expressed support. “This is a private-public partnership that works,” says Bartholow. “We have food rotting in restaurants and workers that want to work and can’t.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Advocates Demand USDA Rescind Guidance That Strips Emergency Food Assistance From Californians With Greatest Need

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

USDA’s SNAP Emergency Allotment guidance goes against Congressional intent; may require legal action

SAN FRANCISCO — Western Center on Law & Poverty and Impact Fund have sent a demand letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, requesting the Department rescind guidance from March 20th and April 21st of this year regarding implementation of SNAP (aka food stamps) emergency allotments, which Congress provided as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The Act is intended to provide emergency allotments of food assistance to eligible low-income households. Emergency assistance is critical for Californians impacted by the COVID-19 health emergency and related stay-at-home orders, as the State and the Nation face increased food expenses and the loss of other food assistance on which residents normally rely.

USDA’s current guidance illegally denies emergency food aid to the poorest households, preventing California from providing emergency SNAP allotments to those most in need. In its initial application to USDA for emergency allotments, California disagreed with USDA’s guidance, stating that families receiving the regular maximum SNAP benefit should receive additional emergency aid. USDA denied the proposal, and told the State to submit a revised proposal for emergency allotments that leaves households most in need – those receiving the pre-pandemic maximum SNAP benefit – without any emergency assistance.

“It is not only cruel and absurd that the poorest families are denied emergency aid during an unprecedented national emergency, it is also contrary to Congressional intent,” said Alexander Prieto, a Senior Litigator for Western Center on Law & Poverty. “By asserting this harsh and indefensible interpretation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, USDA is needlessly imperiling the health of countless communities for dubious reasons.”

Families with the lowest incomes face the greatest risk of hunger and food insecurity during the COVID crisis. They are less likely to have food reserves for sheltering-in-place, and more likely to rely on food banks and other emergency channels for food distribution, which are currently overextended and under-resourced. Even if households locate a food bank, they are less able to access this resource due to the increased risk of COVID exposure they face when leaving home. Additionally, these households are more likely to include young children, as well as seniors or people with disabilities.

“USDA refuses to acknowledge the disproportionate impact this crisis is having on the ability of at-risk families to meet their basic needs,” said Lindsay Nako, Director of Litigation and Training at Impact Fund. “Before COVID, wealth and income inequality punished thousands of Californians who could barely get by. Now is not the time to further exacerbate that trend. We are simply asking USDA to ensure that everyone has food to eat.”

Western Center and Impact Fund are prepared to take legal action to protect the rights of California’s low-income SNAP recipients if USDA does not rescind its current guidance by April 29, 2020.

Contact:

Courtney McKinney, cmckinney[at]wclp.org, (214) 395-2755

Teddy Basham-Witherington, twitherington[at]impactfund.org, (415) 845-1206

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New states in SNAP online pilot program going live this month and next

“Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, has been working on bringing SNAP online in California for several years and says the SNAP recipients she works with are generally happy with the new option.

“This will really help people who are feeling left out and scared right now,” she says.”

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Rep. Omar Introduces Legislation to suspend school meal debt

“From day one of the Pandemic, our lunch service professionals have been hard at work, some risking their own health, so that every child who depends on school meals to prevent hunger is served while schools are closed,” said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “But even before this national crisis, many American families had economic crises of their own and couldn’t afford to pay for the lunches their children needed to get through the school day. Relieving families and school lunch administrators from debt collection burdens and making school districts whole will help all of us focus on what is needed to get our economy, our schools and our children through the difficult months ahead.”

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