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May 20, 2020
Our Policy Proposals for Combating Hunger Through COVID-19 & Beyond

At Project Bread, we know that food insecurity is not caused by scarcity of food, but by systemic barriers that result in unequal access to basic necessities. We need widespread policy solutions to break down barriers through the duration of this crisis and beyond. 

Individuals and families across the state are feeling the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 crisis as they face challenges such as lost wages, school closures or an inability to stock up on necessary food during the stay-at-home advisory. Before this crisis, far too many of our neighbors in Massachusetts were facing food insecurity – 1 in 11 households and 1 in 9 children. As we confront this public health emergency with its record unemployment, the problem is growing exponentially. In March alone, approximately 38% of Massachusetts residents report experiencing food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

At Project Bread, we know that food insecurity is not caused by scarcity of food, but by systemic barriers that result in unequal access to basic necessities. The emergency food system - food banks and food pantries - cannot by the only response to this crisis. We need to work with state and federal government on sustainable solutions that break down barriers and strengthen the nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that are proven to combat food insecurity through the duration of this crisis and beyond.

Below are the policy proposals that we suggest for beginning to dig at the roots of the problem of hunger in ways that will ultimately help to solve it.


Federal Policy Recommendations 

Strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • Boost the maximum benefit by at least 15%
  • Increase minimum monthly benefit from $16 to $30
  • Suspend administrative actions that would eliminate, restrict, or weaken SNAP benefits
  • Make Disaster SNAP available to states to meet increased need
  • Expand eligibility by eliminating the gross income test and remove the cap on shelter deductions and medical expensions
  • Increase flexibilities around how and where SNAP benefits can be used, such as online purchasing and delivery services

Maintain and strengthen child nutrition programs

  • Make Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) permanent to provide meals during any additional unplanned school closures and during the summer
  • Extend waivers for child nutrition programs through the duration of the crisis, including the summer

Provide direct cash assistance

  • Make Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) permanent to provide meals during any additional unplanned school closures and during the summer
  • Expand the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to increase household funds for working families with children
  • Expand Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to increase funds for the lowest income families

Remove barriers to assistance for immigrant populations

  • Expand categories of immigrants eligible for SNAP without the five year waiting period
  • Reverse the administration’s harmful “public charge” rule which has a well-documented chilling effect discouraging immigrants from applying for federal assistance programs including SNAP
  • Extend stimulus payments to all taxpayers, including those who use a Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and ensure timely delivery of checks to households that have not filed a tax return

State Policy Recommendations 

Ensuring families and communities are accessing federal nutrition programs

  • Support Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline in the state budget
  • Support Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach Program in the state budget/span>

Provide direct cash assistance

  • Provide additional cash payments through Transition Aid for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled and Children (EAEDC), particularly for families in deep poverty

Prioritize equity in coronavirus response

  • Pass emergency paid sick time to provide at least 15 additional days of job-protected paid sick leave
  • Ensure everyone has access to safe quarantine by identifying alternative sites for safe, dignified shelter for those without alternatives
  • Enact a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and termination of public benefits such as SNAP, MassHealth, disability benefits and access to shelter
  • Ensure immigrants have safe access to testing and treatment for the coronavirus by aggressively communicating that medical and social services will not share information with federal immigration enforcement

Ensure maximum utilization of federal nutrition programs

Though not a legislative action, we need the help of elected officials at all levels to ensure that every eligible person in Massachusetts is enrolled in the federal nutrition programs they need to put food on the table during this time of acute crisis and in the difficult weeks and months to follow. As leaders in their communities, legislators can help by educating their constituents about the options available and directing them to Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 800-645-8333.

Author(s): Project Bread

Filed under: Informing Public Policy, News and Events, Community Solutions, Poverty, For the Media