U.S. Reps. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Tony Cárdenas, D-San Fernando Valley, introduced the Expanded Access to Emergency Meals Act on Monday.
The bill aims to ensure that all low-income families will have access to emergency meals from the Federal Emergency Management Agency during future emergencies and disasters.
“The pandemic has forced millions of Americans into economic uncertainty, unsure whether they’ll be able to keep the roof over their heads or put food on the table for their children,” Rep. Carbajal said in a statement. “COVID-19 has drained resources and sapped job opportunities, leaving families who were already food insecure more vulnerable than ever,”
The new bill amends the Stafford Act, which currently prohibits FEMA from using public assistance funds to serve those already enrolled in a similar federal program. For example, individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are currently ineligible to participate in emergency food programs through FEMA.
The Expanded Access to Emergency Meal Act aims to change this, offering an amendment to the Stafford Act that will allow individuals enrolled in SNAP and other USDA nutrition programs to participate in programs funded by FEMA.
“Low-income Americans are experiencing the highest rates of hunger we have seen in a lifetime, and essential workers and people of color have been hit the hardest,” Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said in a statement. “FEMA assistance can help prevent hunger and other harmful impacts of a disaster, but its ability to do so has been hampered by confusion about eligibility. By clarifying that recipients of SNAP benefits cannot be excluded from receiving FEMA aid, we can reduce the harm and pain of hunger during the global Pandemic and beyond.”
— Madison Hirneisen