03/08/2021 - The Academy has advocated for food and nutrition issues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including a communication to the Biden Administration. On March 6, the U.S. Senate passed the American Rescue Plan Act, the most recent COVID-19 relief package. The bill includes critical Academy-supported provisions for federal nutrition programs and access to health care.
The American Rescue Plan expands access to federal nutrition programs, investing in supply chain infrastructure, providing relief to farmers and improving rural health care infrastructure.
Specifically related to food and nutrition issues, the bill includes the following provisions:
- Extends the 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for all participants through September 30
- Provides $750 million in additional emergency funding for Older Americans Act senior nutrition programs
- Invests in technological investments to expand SNAP online purchases
- Expands access to more fruits and vegetables through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children and makes investments in innovation
- Expands Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program through the duration of the health emergency
- Provides $37 million for senior nutrition through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program
- Includes meals for at-risk young adults up to age 25 at homeless shelters through the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- Provides $1 billion in nutrition assistance for the territories.
Food Supply Chain
- Purchases food from farmers for distribution through food banks, nonprofits and restaurants to reduce food insecurity
- Provides grants and loans to purchase personal protective equipment, test kits and other measures to keep essential food workers safe
- Provides infrastructure for food processors, farmers markets, food banks and producers to build resiliency.
Supports Farmers of Color
- Pays off burdensome debts that have prevented many farmers of color from being able to grow and sustain their farms
- Provides funding to U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a racial equity commission and address longstanding discrimination across the agency by investing in land access, outreach, business development and more.
Rural Health Care
- Funds rural development grants for rural health care to increase vaccination capacity, telehealth capabilities and health care information systems and to reimburse for revenue lost during COVID-19
- Provides $6 billion to the Indian Health Service.
The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it will likely be voted on this week. There is pressure to have the bill passed and signed by President Biden by March 14, before federal unemployment benefits expire.