House Releases Updated HEROES Act; Maintains Critical Academy Nutrition Priorities

09/29/2020 - On the heels of successful bipartisan Continuing Resolution negotiations, the U.S. House of Representatives released an updated HEROES Act COVID-19 relief package which maintains key nutrition priorities introduced in the original bill. The Academy continues to support these critical provisions and urges members of Congress to vote for the bill's timely passage.

This version of the HEROES Act, now a $2.2 trillion package down from the $3.4 trillion package that passed the House in May, is closer to meeting the administration's expectation of a $1.5 trillion deal. Americans need immediate relief from the rising rates of food insecurity and continued economic stress exacerbated by the COVID-19 national emergency. No major stimulus legislation aimed at addressing food insecurity and nutrition services has passed since the CARES Act was signed into law in March, and much of the funding and authority given from previous packages are running out.

As data emerges on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that minority communities – who were already at greatest risk for food insecurity and decreased access to critical nutrition services – have been disproportionately impacted.

This new version of the HEROES Act still prioritizes nutrition, with key highlights as follows:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Provides $10 billion in additional appropriations to help ensure SNAP has enough funding to handle increased caseload and related costs due to the pandemic;
  • Temporarily increases SNAP benefits by 15 percent;
  • Temporarily increases the SNAP minimum benefit from $16 to $30;
  • Temporarily increases the nutrition assistance block grants for Puerto Rico and American Samoa by 15 percent;
  • Blocks time limits and work requirement sanctions;
  • Temporarily prevents students from losing SNAP eligibility due to work study or job loss;
  • Temporarily allows SNAP benefits to be used to purchase hot foods from authorized SNAP retailers; and
  • Temporarily allow SNAP-Ed staff to support meal distribution activities for commodity or child nutrition programs.

School Meals and Child and Adult Care Food Program

  • Provides funds to school food authorities and CACFP sponsors to support financial challenges due to lost revenue from lower than expected meal service;
  • Extends USDA's authority to allow nationwide waivers for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

Women, Infants and Children

  • Temporarily increases the cash value benefit for the purchase of fruit and vegetables.
  • Provides $400 million in additional appropriations to help ensure WIC has enough funding to handle increased caseload and related costs due to the pandemic.

Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program

  • Allows USDA to waive current in-person rules to serve seniors.

Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs

  • $480 million for Title III-C senior nutrition services.
  • $20 million for Title VI American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian senior nutrition programs.
  • $44 million for Title III-D health promotion/disease prevention.

Indian Health Service

  • $1.734 billion in emergency funding including:
    • $500M for direct health care and telehealth services, including purchasing PPE.
    • $140M for broadband infrastructure and IT related to telehealth and EHRs.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • $13.7B in total emergency including:
    • $2 billion for state/local/tribal grants to purchase PPE for essential workers.

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

  • Allows participation for tribal member households already participating in SNAP who cannot access approved SNAP retailer stores to access FDPIR.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program

  • $450 million for TEFAP food purchases.

The Academy calls on Congress to act swiftly and provide much needed health and nutrition relief as the country continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.