NEW YORK — Hunger advocates say strengthening SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is vital to protecting against increased food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the White House is going the wrong way.
With businesses shutting down across the country to stop the spread of the coronavirus, millions of people are losing their jobs, and senior centers and school meal programs have shut down. According to Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, the Trump administration had agreed with Democrats to support a 15% increase in the SNAP allocation as part of the third COVID-19 response bill, but then went back on that deal.
“They came back a few hours later and they took the offer off the table and they had a much, much, much, much smaller and shorter counteroffer,” Berg said.
He said Democrats want an increase in SNAP benefits to last as long as the economy is in freefall, but Republicans want any increase to end when the virus is under control.
Berg said the economic damage done by the pandemic is likely to last much longer than the pandemic itself.
“If there’s still massive job loss, we’re still going to have a massive hunger need. So the current White House position doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.
He added increased SNAP benefits also will be critical to aid the economic recovery once the COVID-19 emergency has passed.
Berg noted every dollar spent on SNAP generates a $1.80 in economic activity.
“The SNAP program is the single best tool to both feed masses of people at the edge of possible starvation and to ensure we keep and maybe even add jobs in the grocery industry and at farmers markets,” he said.
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