In the Legislature: State bill would provide food assistance as emergency federal aid ends

More than 40 million Americans receive aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (Photo courtesy Public News Service)

The pandemic-era boost to federal food aid is scheduled to end soon, but legislation in Olympia aims to help fill the gap in hunger relief. The emergency allotments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, increased food assistance during COVID-19 but will expire in March. House Bill 1784 in the Washington State Legislature would provide $28 million in food aid as soon April, if it passes.

Jake Garcia, public policy manager for Northwest Harvest, said the end of emergency allotments will mean drastic cuts in aid for vulnerable populations.

“It’s going to hurt folks who are seniors and people with disabilities the most, and so they’ll actually go from receiving $218 a month to about $23 a month in basic food benefits,” he said. “So, it’s a cliff.”

The bill in Olympia would allocate funds for hunger-relief organizations and programs for older Washingtonians and create incentives for fruit and vegetable purchases for low-income Washingtonians. It had a public hearing on Monday and is scheduled for an executive session on Thursday.

Garcia said Washingtonians are struggling with high food prices, too, and urged lawmakers to consider people’s lived experiences with hunger, adding the local conversations about families are more dire than those happening in the Capitol.

“The conversations at dinner tables is, ‘Hey, we don’t have milk. We don’t have eggs. We don’t have the staples.’ It’s a radically different conversation, and I think that’s something is getting lost on some of our legislators in Olympia,” Garcia said.

— By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service


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