Congress Stalls on SNAP Benefits as More NC Families Go Hungry
Thursday, October 29, 2020
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- More North Carolina families are struggling to buy food, yet Congress continues to stall on another round of House-passed coronavirus relief that would provide $10 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Amy Cantrell, co-director of the community resource organization BeLoved Asheville, said as households continue to lose income and face the threat of contracting the coronavirus, increasing minimum monthly SNAP benefits from $16 to $30 would be a lifeline for many families who are stretched thin covering rent, utilities and medical bills.
"We talk about that we're really struggling with multiple pandemics at once," Cantrell asserted. "We have a poverty pandemic, we certainly have a racism pandemic, and on top of that are dealing with a health-care pandemic we've never seen before. Certainly it's exacerbated food insecurity."
Earlier this year, North Carolinians saw their SNAP benefits increase to the maximum available amount. However, those extra benefits are set to expire this month.
Nearly 200,000 residents signed up for SNAP benefits at the onset of the pandemic, a more than 15% increase.
Cantrell added many low-income families have never had to rely on a food pantry until now, and noted food banks are struggling to keep pace with demand.
"We have about two million people that have under 15 dollars an hour, about 15% of our working population," Cantrell explained. "So, you can imagine how then that's complicated by the pandemic."
Joel Berg CEO of Hunger Free America pointed out that although SNAP is a federal program, requirements can vary by state.
He contended it's critical North Carolina's lawmakers understand how effective SNAP can be for preventing food insecurity and injecting cash into local economies.
"So even though these are federal programs, there are differences," Berg stressed. "And it matters very much who your governor is and who your state Legislature is, whether you're taking the more progressive view of how these programs should be used or whether you're adopting the more restrictive view of how they should be used."
The USDA has extended Pandemic-EBT, which provides grocery money to help kids make up for the school meals they missed at the onset of the public health crisis, through September 2021.
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