Omnibus expands summer school meal assistance but cuts emergency SNAP

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The $1.7 trillion spending bill debated in the Senate on Wednesday is a big win for child nutrition advocates, but it comes at a price.

Measurement It will give millions of children easy access to healthy food during the summer months. But to pay for the new benefits, Congress will reduce pandemic-era investments in food assistance programs for food-insecure Americans.

The compromise in the spending bill, which must pass this week to avoid a government shutdown, is one of many trade-offs between Democrats and Republicans as they cobble together the bill in a narrowly divided Congress.

The Senate voted 70-25 on Tuesday to begin debate on the 4,155-page measure, known in congressional parlance as an omnibus, to fund key elements of President Biden’s economic agenda. will It would boost defense programs, expand Medicaid, help Americans save for retirement and provide an additional $44.9 billion in emergency military and economic aid for Ukraine.

Advocates say the child nutrition benefits would be the first new, permanent federal food assistance program of this magnitude to be enacted in nearly 50 years. They would create a debit card program beginning in the summer of 2024 that provides an inflation-adjusted $40 per child grocery benefit to low-income families. Children will be eligible for these benefits if they qualify for free or reduced-price school meals and may be automatically enrolled.

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The pandemic expansion of the school lunch program appears to be coming to an abrupt end.

The bill would allow families in rural areas to have school meals delivered during the summer instead of picking them up on site, which can be difficult in regions where schools draw students from miles away. And instead of having to eat at school, kids can take home or have up to 10 days worth of food delivered at a time.

Share our Power of No Kid Hungry campaign. It is estimated that 6 out of 7 children who participate in free or reduced-price school meals are unable to access the summer meal program due to cumbersome logistics, leaving many with hunger. There is a risk.

But while advocates praised the changes, they criticized the elimination of pandemic-era cuts to food stamps, or SNAP, and school meal benefits meant to help families in health emergencies. Lawmakers said the cuts were necessary to pay for the new benefits. Advocates said the cuts would particularly hurt the elderly poor, who often have larger household sizes and more savings and are thus eligible for smaller food assistance benefits.

Congress unveils $1.7 trillion deal to fund government, avert shutdown

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“Cutting SNAP to pay for child nutrition is not the right choice,” said Crystal FitzSimons, policy analyst for child nutrition programs at the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center. “Emergency allotments for SNAP were tied to a public health emergency, which is not over. We are still in a public health emergency. These allotments have been a tremendous benefit to families at a time when While we are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.

Recipients of all ages will lose benefits starting in March 2023, he said, adding that families lose an average of $82 per person per month. But the biggest hit will be older adults at the minimum benefit level who will see their monthly SNAP benefits drop from $281 to $23.

Biden renewed a free program to feed needy children. Most states have not even applied.

Lisa Davis, senior vice president of No Kid Hungary, called the trade “a bit of a couch potato,” but that it’s still “a big win” for food security in the United States.

“I don’t want to minimize that the end of the pandemic allotment will create hardship for some” at a time when inflation is making it difficult for many to make ends meet, she said. “As difficult as it is to prematurely end or scale back temporary pandemic programs that help families put food on the table, there is a trade-off worth using these temporary funds to build permanent programs.”

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Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) emphasized those provisions in the spending bill. The bill also includes new protections for families whose SNAP benefits have been stolen due to theft. The legislation authorizes the USDA to reissue nutritional benefits to victims of fraud and increase safeguards.

The child nutrition language included in the bill includes some, but not all, of the House reauthorization of the Healthy Eating, Healthy Kids Act, Scott said in a statement. It was a House bill introduced in July aimed at increasing access to free school meals for children in high-poverty schools while strengthening nutrition standards.

“This proposal falls far short of the comprehensive reauthorization that America’s children and families deserve, although I am grateful that we have made some progress toward our ultimate goal of ending child hunger,” Scott said in the statement. will be able to,” Scott said in the statement. Stabenow said in a statement that he is committed to reauthorizing child nutrition, and protecting the SNAP program, as lawmakers begin work on the next farm bill, which would end all nutrition assistance. Determines funding for programs.

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