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  • House approves coronavirus response bill including several provisions expanding food assistance programs - Senate expected to vote on the measure next week

House approves coronavirus response bill including several provisions expanding food assistance programs - Senate expected to vote on the measure next week

  • Monday, March 16, 2020 11:37 AM
    Message # 8834647
    Roger Szemraj (Administrator)

    The House of Representatives by a vote of 363-40-1 approved HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This bill was negotiated between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Administration and is expected to be signed into law once action is completed.  The Senate will resume session at p.m. on Monday, March 16, but has not yet announced its schedule for consideration of this bill.  The House is now in recess until Monday, March 23.

    A Title by Title Summary of the bill can be found here.

    According to a press release from the House Education and Labor Committee, the bill includes:

    • COVID–19 Child Nutrition Response Act (introduced by Rep. Bonamici, Rep. Comer), a bipartisan bill to ensure schools can provide students with nutritious food in case of school closures.  The COVID–19 Child Nutrition Response Act (H.R. 6203) will create a nationwide waiver authority, allow school officials to distribute food in any number of settings across all nutrition programs, and allow for flexibility on meal components if food supply or procurement is disrupted. To read the COVID–19 Child Nutrition Response Act bill text, click here.
    • Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students (MEALS) Act (introduced by Rep. Omar), waves the existing requirement that prevents the Department of Agriculture from approving state waiver requests that result in increased costs to the federal government.  The Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students (MEALS) Act, H.R. 6187, waves the existing requirement that prevents the Department of Agriculture from approving state waiver requests that result in increased costs to the federal government. To read the Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students (MEALS) Act bill text, click here.
    • Pandemic EBT Act (introduced by Rep. Scott, Rep. Fudge), creates an emergency anti-hunger program to provide additional food assistance to families during a pandemic.  Under the bill, the Secretary of Agriculture may approve state plans to provide Pandemic EBT benefits to eligible households with children who may or may not already be participating in SNAP.  Eligible children must be receiving free or reduced-price school meals and be enrolled at a school that is closed for no less than 5 consecutive days due to the pandemic emergency based on an outbreak of coronavirus.  Benefits provided to approved households can be no less than the value of school meals at the federal free rate over the course of five school days for each eligible child in the household.  Authority to provide assistance under this bill is available only in Fiscal Year 2020.  To read the Pandemic EBT Act bill text, click here.

    The bill also provides additional funding:

    • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) – $500 million to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency. 
    • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – $400 million to assist local food banks to meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency.  Of the total, $300 million is for the purchase of nutritious foods and $100 million is to support the storage and distribution of the foods. 

    Speaker Pelosi has said that the House may take up additional legislation as needed to respond to COVID-19.


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