President Joe Biden’s Rescue America Plan Act addresses food insecurity while realigning the economy, safely reopening K-12 schools, assuring all Americans have access to and will receive COVID-19 vaccinations, and pulling millions out of poverty. The stimulus bill, which was signed into law on March 11, 2021, offers assistance to those who experience hunger, strengthens the food supply chain, and supports underserved farmers of color.
Stimulus Helps Put Food on The Table
At least 42 million people in America experienced food insecurity in 2019, the pandemic likely increased the number affected with the significant increase in unemployment and food outlets shutting down. Households with children have a greater risk of not having enough food.
More Americans turned to food banks for the first time during 2020. The latest of three stimulus packages provides bold nutrition solutions and extends programs established in the first two.
- The Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) stimulus program will continue to be available until the health crisis subsides, including through the summer. It provides families who qualify for free or reduced school lunches access to healthy food.
- Biden’s stimulus plan extends the 15 percent increase for all recipients in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through Sept. 30, 2021 — approximately $27 per month. The Act also allocates $1.5 billion to cover the cost of state administrative expenses.
- Included are stimulus monies to improve technology needed to expand access for P-EBT and SNAP recipients to use their benefits online.
- $880 million are designated to expand access to fruits and vegetables for moms and babies in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
- Another $37 million will provide increased senior nutrition through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
- The stimulus bill includes $1 billion in nutrition assistance for U.S. territories.
Stimulus Aid Responds to Food Supply Chain Disruptions
There are farmers in all 50 states; however, agricultural production is centered in the Midwest and California. Some states have developed strong local and regional food systems in which food is sold directly to local consumers. Under normal circumstances, the vast majority of the food is produced, processed, and sold in other states. The pandemic disrupted this well-oiled process.
In April 2020, a major meatpacking plant closed indefinitely due to COVID-19 infections. Other meatpacking food processing plants closed. By May, restaurants closed, some farmers did not plant crops due to social distancing requirements. While, at this time, it appears as though the food supply chain is on the mend, it will take time to rebuild its structure.
The American Rescue Plan stimulus makes long-term investments to increase the resiliency of the food supply in the future,” according to the USDA. Biden’s stimulus:
- Supports farmers by procuring their products with the intent of increasing food availability for distribution. The food will be sent to food banks, non-profit organizations, or restaurants to feed families in need.
- Establishes grants and loans to ensure essential workers safe from infection by reimbursing or purchasing personal protective equipment, COVID-19 test kits.
- Plans to rebuild resiliency in the food supply for the long term. To do so, the stimulus Act will invest in the infrastructure and retooling support for food processors, farmer markets, food banks, local food systems, and producers.
- “Funds the monitoring of COVID-19 in animals and reduces overtime inspection fee paid by small meat and poultry processors, supporting livestock and animal health.”
Read how the stimulus bill helps rebuild America’s economy, creates a path for reopening K-12 schools, and more in part one of this series. Part three covers the Rescue America Act’s approach to getting a shot in every arm and President Biden’s goal for the future after the country reopens.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
CNN: Here’s what’s in the COVID relief package; by Tammy Luhby and Katie Lobosco
USA Today: President Joe Biden’s COVID stimulus bill explained in 6 charts; by Ledyard King and Javier Zarracina
USDA: FACT SHEET: United States Department of Agriculture Provisions in H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan
Civil Eats: Food Distribution 101: What Happens When the Food Supply is Disrupted by a Pandemic; Lisa Held
Images Courtesy of Cathy Milne-Ware