“The ability to buy food online with CalFresh has been pushed for years by Jessica Bartholow, legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
“Now that we are in [the] COVID-19 [pandemic], there is an undeniable urgency to expedite the ability of the state to be able to do this,” Bartholow said.”
“President Trump is finding every opportunity to talk about food stamps,” says Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law on Poverty. “Unfortunately, it’s in the context of wanting to cut the benefit.”
“A big part of the anti-hunger emergency food safety net traditionally has been run by people who are older,” said Jessica Bartholow, legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “All the programs, church pantries, soup kitchens are staffed by volunteers who are now being told to stay home. There is a real crumbling of the natural infrastructure of California anti-hunger assistance programs.”
“Not every food bank within the six counties has been willing to accept this help, though, as some declined the Guard’s offer due to concerns about perceptions from the immigrant community, said Jessica Bartholow, legislative advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
“They come in uniform,” she said. “It can be startling if you come from a country where a uniform represents martial law.”
“Having the option to purchase online just like everybody else is something our clients have been asking for for a long time,” said Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “The crisis elevates that request. A lot of our folks really need the food delivered.”
This evening, the President signed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will greatly increase food security during the uncertain times presented by COVID-19 and the subsequent shelter in place protections taking hold across the country. The Senate passed the bill earlier today. The new law will provide flexibility for SNAP food stamp benefits (known as CalFresh in California) and additional anti-hunger resources like Pandemic EBT, which will prevent hunger among children during school closures.
The law also funds additional unemployment insurance opportunities, paid sick leave, and free COVID-19 testing. We look forward to working with the Department of Social Services and County Human Services Agencies to implement the new law in California.
Specifically, the law will help Californians with low-incomes in the following ways:
- Provides $500 in additional WIC funds and provides broad authority to USDA to grant waivers of regulatory requirements through September 30th to ensure we are able to meet the specific nutrition needs of pregnant women, new moms, and young children as WIC adopts new practices to remotely serve participant needs.
- Provides $400M to support increased distribution of food at food banks. California’s food bank lines have doubled in the past week due to intense community need, these are vital funds for food security.
- Establishes Pandemic EBT, which enables the state to help reduce hunger as schools close and more counties go to shelter in place. Pandemic EBT offers the quickest and easiest way to get food into the hands of those that who need it most: (1) By providing additional SNAP dollars to current SNAP recipients; and (2) By providing funds to children eligible for free and reduced-price school lunch whose families may not be currently receiving SNAP.
- Gives USDA authority to issue waivers to allow non-congregate meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
- Focuses strategies and additional financial resources on older adult nutrition, since older adults are one of the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19. With Governor Newsom announcing that everyone over 65 should stay home, and an increasing number of counties implementing shelter in place, it’s essential that we target services to keep this population nourished.
This is a tremendous first step in addressing the needs of people living in the United States at this time. We are hopeful that Congress and the President will continue the hard work needed to protect everyone – particularly those most vulnerable to the economic implications brought on by the pandemic. We look forward to seeing an economic stimulus package that works not just to help the economy, but most importantly, to provide relief to families and individuals across the country.
“Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said shutting down schools and businesses has “really hard consequences that we’re now struggling to address” but if it stems the spread of the virus “the overall outcome for families will be better.”
“Other groups at risk of losing their food stamps include people experiencing homelessness, veterans, people recently out of jail or prison and former foster youth, according to Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
For some, having to provide proof of working 20 hours per week may become a roadblock.
“They will have to go through a lot of hurdles to verify eligibility,” Bartholow said. “A lot of people don’t work in places that regularly provide a printed time-sheet.”