03/19/2020 - Yesterday, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed in the U.S. Senate and was signed into law by the president. This legislation will help ensure access to food for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as provide free testing and paid leave to some workers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed similar legislation earlier this week. Now that the legislation has passed, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have the necessary authority and additional resources to ensure flexibility in nutrition programs and services.
Academy members were called to take action on this critical issue, with more than 1,100 members sending over 2,300 letters, urging their senators to pass the legislation. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will:
- Provide the USDA with the authority to issue nationwide school meal waivers to more quickly utilize flexibilities
- Give states the authority to use a pandemic electronic benefit transfer program to provide families an EBT card with the monetary value of school meals not accessible during school closures
- Allow USDA the authority for all child and adult care centers to operate as non-congregate meal sites
- Provide $500 million in emergency funding for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and gives USDA the authority to grant flexibilities to minimize in-person interactions for certification and recertification
- Allocate $160 million for home-delivered meals and $80 million for congregate meals through the Older Americans Act nutrition programs
- Place a temporary suspension on the Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents time-limit nationwide allowing for all ABAWDS to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Provide a $300 million increase in funds for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, $100 million for the cost of storing and distributing the food, in addition to $10 million for nutrition services for Native Americans.
The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly within communities; the Academy urges lawmakers to work together to pass legislation that will help mitigate the impact of this pandemic and ensure that Americans will have the resources to put food on the table.