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Coronavirus: National Guard fills critical volunteer shortage at Silicon Valley food bank

“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.”

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JOINT STATEMENT: Families First Coronavirus Response Act passes Congress to provide significant relief during the pandemic: More action still needed

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.

Out of a job? Can’t pay your bills? These proposals may help keep you afloat amid coronavirus

“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.”

https://calmatters.org/california-divide/2020/03/california-coronavirus-unemployment-state-federal-proposals-poverty/

California, 13 other states sue to stop Trump’s food stamp cuts

“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.”

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What Happens Next With Trump’s Food Benefit Cuts

“The food benefits rule finalized last week reduces states’ authority to set their own eligibility standards for the subset of SNAP beneficiaries who don’t have children and aren’t disabled.

“It’s pretty clear that the president acted outside of his authority,” said Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty. ”

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Western Center Submits Comments Opposing Third Rule Change Proposal for SNAP Eligibility

The 60-day comment period has ended for the third set of proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the Trump Administration. This proposed change to the SNAP Standard Utility Allowance methodology could impact up to 25% of the SNAP caseload in California, reducing their benefit.

Below is an excerpt from the comments we submitted; full comments can be read here.

The Proposed Rule Will Increase Hunger and Cause Permanent Harm
We disagree with the Food and Nutrition Services’ (FNS’) proposal to establish standard amounts for SUAs, which would reduce SNAP benefits for 25 percent of participating California households or about 572,000 households, according to FNS’ own estimates. In total, nationwide, FNS estimates the SNAP program would be cut by $4.478 billion in the next five years. This drastic reduction in benefits would expose people who are living in poverty to more hunger, poorer health, fewer opportunities for economic mobility, and worst outcomes in the major determinants of a person’s well-being.

College students, seniors and immigrants miss out on food stamps. Here’s why.

A college student in Fresno who struggles with hunger has applied for food stamps three times. Another student, who is homeless in Sacramento, has applied twice. Each time, they were denied.

A 61-year-old in-home caretaker in Oakland was cut off from food stamps last year when her paperwork got lost. Out of work, she can’t afford groceries.

…”On a human level, what that means is that we continue to allow Californians to go without food,” said Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

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