American Rescue Plan Will Help Mass. Residents Access Food

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Landmark Legislation and Relief For Those Struggling

The American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress and signed today by President Biden, is landmark legislation providing significant relief to the 1 in 6 Massachusetts households struggling to afford food. The global pandemic and high rates of unemployment have exacerbated food insecurity in our state. Project Bread applauds the Biden administration for championing and this law. We are also very grateful to our Massachusetts congressional delegation for leading the national discourse on hunger solutions and unanimously supporting the American Rescue Plan. 

The economic pain the pandemic has caused households and our economy at-large will continue to impact us for months, if not years. The Congressional Budget Office predicts it will be 2024 before unemployment falls to pre-pandemic levels.  Large-scale hunger solutions are critical right now, as 1 in 5 Massachusetts households with children faces food insecurity with Black and Latino households disproportionately impacted - 1 in 3 for Black and Latina/o households with children. The American Rescue Plan represents significant progress in making scalable solutions for hunger more accessible while also addressing the underlying inequities that cause poverty and food insecurity.  

Targeted Toward Low and Middle Income Families

An estimated 70% of the American Rescue Plan’s 1.9 trillion dollars is targeted directly toward low and middle income households. 

  • Extends the 15% increase in SNAP benefits from end of June to end of September. This represents an average increase of $28 per person per month allowing families to better afford groceries to last through the month. This also represents nearly $25 million more dollars to Massachusetts each month in SNAP benefits helping boost our local economy. As of December, over 902,000 individuals received SNAP benefits in Massachusetts, a 25% increase from pre-COVID levels.  Every dollar spent in SNAP benefits generates a $1.70 of economic activity.
     
  • Extends Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) through September 30: P-EBT provides families who otherwise would be able to receive free or reduced-price school meals the value of the school meals in order to purchase groceries. Over 500,000 students received benefits under Pandemic EBT in Massachusetts, allowing them to buy the food they need for their children in the safest, most convenient way possible. Originally set to expire at the end of the school year, P-EBT will continue to provide benefits throughout the summer, even when school is out of session.
     
  • Increases and Modernizes Special Supplemental Nutrition Program to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits: Pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children under the age of 5 may be eligible to receive WIC which in part provides an EBT card to purchase healthy foods. The American Rescue Plan increases the amount of fruits and vegetables that can be purchased under WIC by $35 dollars. The legislation also directs funds to be used to help modernize WIC service delivery. The caseload for WIC in Massachusetts is 114,562, representing a 9% increase from pre-COVID levels.
     
  • Adds $1 billion to the Nutrition Assistance Program, a limited alternative to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program administered in Puerto Rico and other territories.

Critical Financial Support for Those Hardest Hit

In addition to addressing food insecurity, the American Rescue Plan also provides  critical financial support to families and communities hardest hit during this crisis:

  • A new round of $1,400 per person survival checks for every member of a household, including children and dependents, for families making less than $75,000 a year per individual or $150,000 per year for a married couple.
     
  • Extends expanded unemployment benefits until September 6th including a federal boost in unemployment of $300 per week. This additional $300 per week cannot be counted as income for calculating SNAP benefits or eligibility.
     
  • Increases the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit: These two tax credits are among the most effective anti-poverty policies and under the American Rescue Plan both credits are expanded in both amount and who is eligible. The Center of Budget and Public Priorities estimates 1.1 million children would benefit from the Child Tax Credit expansion and 55,000 would be lifted out of poverty. 
     
  • Provides $350 billion for state and local governments as well as $130 billion for safe school re-opening: The White House and Congress have left the majority of the decisions of how these funds will be spent to state and local governments. However, the priorities named in the American Rescue Plan suggest these funds could be used to support a range of initiatives including anti-hunger programs.

Still Significant Work Ahead

Project Bread applauds the tangible progress the Congress has made in increasing access to federal nutrition programs through the American Rescue Plan. Federal nutrition programs are the most efficient and effective way to ensure every one can access and afford food but they remain underutilized. According to recent estimates, as many as 700K people in MA are eligible for SNAP but not enrolled. There is significant work ahead. Project Bread will continue our efforts to ensure people who are food insecure across the Commonwealth are aware of these programs and receive personalized and compassionate support in accessing them with dignity. We look forward to working with the Biden administration and continuing to partner with our Congressional delegation and state and local policymakers to realize a Massachusetts where hunger had been permanently solved. 

If you need help accessing food, please visit our Get Help page or call Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 for confidential, free support in 180 Languages.

 

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