Report: Thousands in Pa. excluded from emergency SNAP benefits | Friday Morning Coffee

July 31, 2020 7:01 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If there’s one thing that both anecdotal and official evidence confirms, the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated food insecurity across the country. With millions out of work, food banks and food pantries have been straining to keep up with the demand. And while they’ve certainly helped, the coronavirus relief packages passed by Congress still haven’t closed the gap.

A new report by the progressive Center for American Progress paints a stark picture of how far short the federal relief effort has fallen.

The report focuses on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March, which included the authorization of “emergency allotments” for families enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, program (as food stamps are now known), giving them the maximum allowable level of benefits for their household size.

As the report notes, this made a huge difference. For instance, a SNAP-eligible household of one received the maximum of $194 in food assistance, irrespective of their calculated net income, the report indicated.

“However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interpretation of the law excludes households who were receiving the maximum benefit before the passage of the relief package,” researchers found.

“This means that the more than 7 million households across the country who received the maximum in fiscal year 2018—those already deemed to be the poorest and most in need by SNAP eligibility guidelines—received no extra aid as the economy plummeted into a recession,” the report continues. “Despite challenges to the interpretation, almost 40 percent of all SNAP households are left without a needed increase in federal food assistance even while facing an unprecedented rise in food insecurity.”

(Image via Flickr Commons)

In Pennsylvania, 35 percent of households, based on 2018, were excluded from the emergency increases. That breaks down to 332,317 households, or 553,901 people. Of that household total, 103,198 were households with children, for a total of 189,627 children, the report found.

“A 15 percent increase in maximum SNAP benefits for all households for the duration of the economic crisis would capture the 12 million individuals excluded from previous legislation and provide a much-needed boost to many of the 6 million new people using the program since the start of the coronavirus crisis,” the analysis concluded. “To ensure that no one continues to go hungry, Congress must prioritize increasing SNAP benefits in the next round of legislation—for everyone this time.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

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State Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, is taking (justifiable) flak for comparing the plight of anti-maskers to the hate faced by LGBTQ Pennsylvanians. Stephen Caruso has the story.

Nick Field crunches the data and takes a look at some of the voter registration gains that Pa. Republicans have made since the June 2 primary.

Historically Black colleges and universities have launched their own COVID-19 testing programs, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, state Reps. Jared Solomon and Jordan Harris stress the ties that bind Pennsylvania’s Jewish and Black communities in the ongoing fight for tolerance and justice. And occasional contributor Daren Berringer talks to Pittsburgh musicians about how they’re getting through the pandemic.

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School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite speaks during a news conference Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at City Hall (Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune)

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Activist Gene Stilp was in Luzerne County on Thursday, where he burned Trump flags, and was taunted by counter-protesters, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

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What Goes On.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., 
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Best wishes go out this morning to all-purpose agitator Sean Kitchen and to veteran PennLive courts reporter Matt Miller, both of whom celebrate today. Congrats and enjoy the day, gents.

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Here’s a deep cut from Radiohead to finish out the working week. From 1996, it’s Talk Show Host.’

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And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.