What does the new COVID Relief Bill mean for struggling and hungry families?

What are some big changes and when will people begin to see relief?

• The new package provides an extension of unemployment insurance and a federal unemployment insurance bonus of $300 per week.
• Stimulus direct payments may arrive as early as next week for some individuals.

  •  “Individuals who made up to $75,000 in 2019 will receive $600. Married couples who earned up to $150,000 will receive $1,200. Filers listed as "head of household" and who earned $112,500 or less will also get $600. And families will receive an additional $600 — up from $500 in the spring — for each dependent under 18 in the household." Read more from NBC.

What is the biggest change to SNAP and when can people see relief?

Previous coronavirus relief bills did not expand benefits for the 40% of SNAP recipients already receiving the maximum benefit amount. This new bill includes a 15% increase to the maximum SNAP allotment for 6 months (January 1-June 30th 2021) for all SNAP recipients. This increase equals about $25/person each month in additional benefits, a move that many advocates were calling for. Read more from CNBC.

Can you still get additional SNAP benefits if you get additional unemployment compensation?

This bill excludes unemployment income from being counted when calculating SNAP and benefits eligibility unlike the relief bill in the spring. Unemployment income will not impact SNAP or other benefits.

What changes are happening as to how people can use benefits?

This new COVID relief funding package supports expanded access to online and flexible grocery shopping options for SNAP and WIC participants.  Walmart, Amazon, and Aldi recently began offering online SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer grocery purchases. The relief bill gives the USDA funds for technology support to expand online purchasing programs to include more retailers and even farmers markets.

Will mixed status families receive the $600 stimulus payment?

“As part of the $900 billion coronavirus relief package it passed late Monday, Congress is set to allow mixed-status households with undocumented family members to receive stimulus checks that they were denied under the first round of legislation in the spring.
Under the bipartisan agreement, U.S. citizens and green card holders will be able to receive $600 in direct aid, even if they filed a joint tax return with an undocumented spouse, as well as additional $600 checks per dependent child, according to congressional aides and the text of the legislation.”  Read more about how this benefits immigrant families in the full article from CBS.

What additional assistance is included for unemployment?

The bill includes an additional unemployment benefits of $300 per week, on top of states' unemployment insurance. The bill only ensures these additional benefits for ten weeks. The bill also expands the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which aids gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which extends federal unemployment insurance for people who have exhausted their regular benefits. CBS

In total, the bill includes over $13 billion for hunger relief programs.

Below is a summary of some of the key nutrition provisions:

• Provides a 15% increase in SNAP benefits for 6 months (through June 30, 2021) for all SNAP participants. This is longer than the 3 month time period in previous versions of the bill.
• Excludes unemployment compensation from being counted as income for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits and eligibility.       
• Provides some college students access to SNAP by waiving requirements that apply only to students and giving them access to SNAP similar to impacted workers with reduced work hours due to COVID.   
• Provides $400 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program to support food banks and other emergency food providers. This is less than the $700 million provided in previous drafts of the legislation.
• Provides $175 million for senior nutrition programs under the Older Americans Act. This is less than the $750 million provided in previous drafts of the legislation.
• Provides $13 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides a monthly food box to low-income seniors.    
• Supports expanded access to online and flexible grocery shopping options for SNAP and WIC participants. Provides $5 million to add additional retailers to online SNAP, including for farmers markets and direct to consumer sales, and establishes a task force to test new technology in WIC, including online, home delivery, and self-checkout.

The bill also includes other important funding to support low-income people and affected workers:

• Provides extension of unemployment insurance and a federal unemployment insurance bonus of $300 per week
• Includes “stimulus check” of $600 per person for individuals earning $75,000 per year and $600 for their children – the same requirements as the first round of stimulus checks
• Provides $25 billion in rental assistance and a one-month extension of the eviction moratorium

(Summary of key provision provided by Sophie Milam, Senior Director of Public Policy, Greater Chicago Food Depository)