Dear Senators Capito and Manchin,
Food for All is a broad and diverse coalition of individuals and organizations across West Virginia who believe that no West Virginian should ever go without access to adequate, nutritious food. Our coalition has dedicated itself to improving food security outcomes for our friends and neighbors across the Mountain State through public policy for the past three years, and the food access situation in our state has never been more dire than it is right now.
Many of your constituents are on the brink, their incomes have collapsed, their car, rent and mortgage payments are delayed and many are facing an imminent threat of eviction. We are hearing about families needing to skip meals or accessing foods with very low nutritional content due to its lower costs. While charitable food agencies have stepped in to try and fill the void, it is simply not enough to address the problem.
We are extremely concerned at the unacceptable response presented by the leadership of the United States Senate last week. While we understand negotiations are ongoing, the HEALS Act as it was released will exacerbate the problems we are seeing around household food insecurity in West Virginia.
The vital boost to unemployment benefits that your constituents relied on to make ends meet during this trying time have now expired without a viable alternative proposed. This is a shameful revelation of the lack of priority given to those most vulnerable to the economic collapse caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by our Senate majority leaders. The proposed bill does nothing to bolster the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s most successful anti-hunger program, this despite a June 18th call by nearly 2,500 organizations, including members of this coalition, to raise disbursements by 15% and increase the minimum benefit to $30.
SNAP is the first line of defense and the most important initiative to address hunger because of its broad reach. Previous pandemic response legislation included much-needed TEFAP funding and pandemic-EBT cards but much more is needed, including an extension of P-EBT, additional TEFAP funding for food purchases as well as administrative funds for West Virginia’s two food bank’s infrastructure and operational costs as they continue to meet unprecedented demand in communities across West Virginia.
We call on you to introduce and pass a COVID-19 relief package that truly addresses the needs of your constituents and the millions of families across the country on the brink of losing everything during this pandemic. In these trying and uncertain times, let’s not add food insecurity to the growing list of worries a household must confront, especially considering the level of investment the Senate seems so willing to contribute to less vital areas.
We urge you to advocate with all the weight of your office so that the next COVID-19 relief package includes the following measures:
-A 15% increase in maximum SNAP benefits
-Extension of unemployment benefits originally passed in the CARES Act
-Increase the FMAP for Medicaid match to 12%
-Additional direct aid for county and local governments providing critical services during the pandemic.
Thank you for your timely attention to this urgent matter.
Members of Food for All coalition including:
Mountaineer Food Bank
Facing Hunger West Virginia
WV Center on Budget & Policy
American Friends Service Committee
WV Food & Farm Coalition
WV Food ER
Rabbi Victor Urecki on behalf of B’Nai Jacob Synagogue
Families Leading Change
WVU Extension Service