Working Together to Nourish the Nation

Senate approves HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act 90-8

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020 5:23 PM
    Message # 8840678
    Roger Szemraj (Administrator)

    The Senate has now approved HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by a vote of    The President is expected to sign the bill into law quickly in order to make the funds and authorities provided by the bill available.

    As a reminder, the food assistance program provisions included in the bill are:

    • 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. 

    As  you know the President is seeking another response package beyond this one, and Senator McConnell has said the Senate is working on developing the bill.  There has not been any additional open discussion of food program provisions at this time, but we do know that the committees responsible for these programs are paying close attention to the concerns that have been voiced and what needs remain.  We will continue to monitor developments and report as appropriate.


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