Omnibus expands summer school meal assistance but cuts emergency SNAP

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

The measure millions of children will have easier access to healthy food during the summer months. Instead of paying for the new benefits, Congress will reduce investments during the pandemic in food assistance programs for food-insecure Americans.

The compromise in the spending bill, which must pass this week to prevent a government shutdown, is one of the trade-offs by Democrats and Republicans as they put the bill together in the Divided assembly.

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

Child nutrition benefits are the first new federal food assistance program of this size enacted in nearly 50 years, advocates say. They will create a credit card program starting in the summer of 2024 that provides low-income families with $40 per child per month, adjusted for inflation. Children have access to these benefits if they qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, and can be automatically enrolled.

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The explanation of the school lunch program came to an abrupt end

The bill would also allow families in rural areas to bring school lunches in the summer, rather than having to pick them up on site, which is difficult in areas where schools draw students from miles away. far away. And instead of ordering food at school, kids can take it home, giving them up to 10 days worth of food at a time.

Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign It is estimated that 6 out of 7 children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals are unable to participate in the summer meal program due to administrative difficulties, leaving the many to starve.

But while advocates welcomed the changes, they criticized the elimination of epidemic diseases in food stamps, or SNAP, and school meal benefits aimed at help families in a medical emergency. Lawmakers said the cuts were necessary to pay for the new benefits. The cuts, advocates say, will hurt poorer seniors the most, who have smaller household sizes and more savings and therefore qualify for lower food assistance benefits.

Congress will unveil a $1.7 trillion deal to fund the government and prevent a shutdown

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“Cutting SNAP to pay for food for children is not right,” said Crystal FitzSimons, a policy analyst for child nutrition programs at the nonprofit Center for Nutrition and Action Research. “Emergency measures for SNAP linked to the public health emergency are not over yet. We are still in the middle of a public health emergency. These measures are of great benefit to families in order to survive during the emergency. We are still experiencing the effects of the pandemic.”

Recipients of all ages will lose benefits starting in March 2023, he said, with families losing $82 per person, per month. But the biggest loss is for older adults in the lowest benefit bracket who will see their monthly SNAP benefits drop from $281 to $23.

Biden renewed a free program to feed poor children. Most states have yet to apply.

Lisa Davis, vice president of No Kid Hungry, called the auction “Sophie’s little choice,” but “a huge sleeper hit” for food security in the United States.

“I don’t want to understate that ending health benefits will hurt some people” at a time when rising costs are making it difficult for many to make ends meet, he said. “While it may be difficult to immediately stop or scale back short-term emergency programs to help families put food on the table, using those short-term funds to build lasting programs it’s worth taking.”

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Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) pushed for these measures in the spending bill. The bill also includes new protections for families whose SNAP benefits have been stolen after a series of thefts. This law gives the United States Department of Agriculture and said authority to reissue food benefits to victims of this fraud and increase safety measures.

The children’s nutrition language in the bill includes parts, but not all, of the House reauthorization of the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, Scott said in a statement. . This is a House bill introduced in July that aims to increase access to free school meals for children in the poorest schools and strengthen food standards.

“This proposal falls far short of the comprehensive enactment that is right for America’s children and families, although I am grateful that we can make progress toward our ultimate goal of ending childhood hunger,” Scott said. in the story. Stabenow said in a statement that he is committed to passing the Child Nutrition Act and protecting the SNAP program as lawmakers begin work on the Farm Bill. which follows, determines funding for all food assistance programs.

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