WASHINGTON – In an effort to combat food insecurity in the US, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing new legislation to help strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Gillibrand, along with several other Senators, has drafted the “Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2021.”
“The United States was already facing a severe food crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We live in the richest nation in the world and yet, 42 million Americans are struggling with food insecurity. This is unacceptable,” said Senator Gillibrand. “SNAP provides a critical lifeline for so many families and it needs support more than ever to meet the needs of SNAP recipients. I am proud to work with Congresswoman Adams on the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2021 to enhance SNAP benefits, break down the barriers to eligibility, and keep food on the table for all Americans.”
The Senator says the COVID-19 pandemic raised food insecurity challenges for millions across America, including children. Currently, 13 million kids are struggling to find consistent meals on a daily basis.
Despite the ongoing success of the SNAP program, roughly half of all households receiving SNAP benefits are still food insecure. Benefits are based on the restrictive Thrifty Food Plan, which inadequately calculates benefits for today’s low-wage workers and their families.
According to the 2019 USDA Household Food Security report, the typical U.S. household spent 28 percent more on food than the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan.
The Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2021 would, according to Gillibrand:
- Increase the baseline for SNAP benefits by approximately 30 percent by using the Low-Cost Food Plan as the basis for calculating the SNAP formula, to better take into account how much working people spend on food.
- Eliminate eligibility limits & unrealistic barriers by:
- Permanently authorizing the standard medical deduction in every state for seniors and disabled individuals applying for SNAP benefits at a minimum of $140. Individuals with high expenses could continue to apply for a higher, itemized medical deduction.
- Eliminating the cap on the Excess Shelter Deduction in the SNAP formula for all households to take into account the cost of living for SNAP recipients in areas with high rent and utilities.
- Eliminating time limits on benefits for all Americans.
- Expand benefits for territories, ending discrimination against those who live and work in U.S. territories by creating a path to transition them to SNAP and treating them as if they were states.
If implemented, this legislation would:
- Increase the minimum SNAP benefit from $16 per month pre-pandemic to $27 per month for a single or two person household;
- Increase SNAP benefits by approximately $80 per month for a single-parent household with one child;
- Provide $150 more per month in SNAP benefits for the average family of four.
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