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American Rescue Plan Includes Major Anti-Hunger Provisions Critical to This Crisis

March 12, 2021

Yesterday, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan that was passed by Congress earlier this week. This $1.9 trillion package contains major, long sought, wins in the fight to end hunger and poverty. California Association of Food Banks commends President Biden and Vice President Harris, as well as Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Lee, and the many members of the Agriculture, Education & Labor, Ways & Means, and other Committees for their leadership and commitment to provide relief to the millions of people suffering on the frontlines of the pandemic.

We applaud the critically-needed provisions to support SNAP (known as CalFresh in California), Pandemic EBT, child nutrition, emergency food, older Americans, and other food safety net programs. The legislation also has several income assistance provisions including $1,400 stimulus checks, unemployment benefits (reduced to $300 per week from the previous $400), and tax credits desperately needed by suffering families. The legislation includes supports expressly crafted to reach immigrant households, address systemic racism, and other proactive steps to improve equity in federal policy and access to fundamental needs.

The bill marks a generational advance toward a more just society, as income supports in the package, including the child tax credit, are expected to cut child poverty in half. California has the highest child poverty rate in the nation. There were 1 in 5 children living in poverty before the pandemic, and a disproportionate number of them are Black, brown, and indigenous. This legislation will make a significant impact in reducing poverty and advancing racial equity in California.

The 15% boost to SNAP/CalFresh, America’s most effective anti-hunger program, will be extended by three months to September 30, 2021. The legislation provides $1 billion for SNAP administrative expenses, recognizing the extraordinary costs and impacts to state and county administrators managing the program through the crisis.

Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) is extended for any school year the public health emergency declaration is in place, and allows P-EBT to provide benefits during the summer months following that school year. This will provide critical aid to school aged children this coming summer and potentially beyond.

A more detailed summary of provisions is in our February statement here.

While this package is a meaningful support for Californians experiencing the traumatic short and long-term impacts of hunger, much more is needed given the magnitude of this crisis. Right now, hunger is at tragic, unprecedented levels that demand a proportionate and ongoing response by policymakers.

As of February 15, 23% of California households are food insecure – that’s more than 9 million people, and nearly 2.5 times higher than before COVID-19. Households with children are experiencing hunger at a higher rate of 29.5%. Even worse, there are deep racial and ethnic disparities, with 26.3% of Black households and 36.8% of Latinx households with children, compared to less than 23% of white households, facing long-term, irreparable harm from hunger.

As we celebrate the passage of the American Rescue Plan, we also call on the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to do more. For example, millions of Californians will experience a hunger cliff at the end of September when the 15% SNAP boost is set to expire. We cannot let this happen. We must learn the lesson of the Great Recession. It took more than a decade for the economy to recover. Without enough immediate relief and long-term investments to escape poverty, millions of people across America who have never been able to stop visiting their local food pantry were left without any economic recovery at all. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congressional leaders to maximize this pivotal moment to provide the necessary relief to match the scale of and defeat this crisis. Food is a basic human right, and we look forward to realizing our vision of a hunger-free California.

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