News Update :
Friday, December 19, 2008

Feed the Masses

The following is the letter from Reps. McGovern, Larsen, Jackson and Levin to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

As you are aware, we are facing extremely difficult times. The United States is in a recession that many economists fear may extend beyond next year. It is clear to us that we need a bold economic recovery and jobs creation package that helps our country recover from this economic crisis. We are encouraged by President-elect Obama’s proposal to grow the economy during his administration. More importantly, we are encouraged by your efforts in the 110th Congress and by your call for a sweeping economic recovery package that President-elect Obama can sign after he is sworn into office.

We strongly and respectfully request that the economic recovery package considered in the 111th Congress include significant funding for anti-hunger programs that not only stimulate the economy but also provide food for those who need it during these difficult times. We are hopeful that funding for any of the anti-hunger programs that are included in the package will not reduce any of the other social safety net programs that may be included in the same package.

We strongly support the inclusion of approximately $26 billion for anti-hunger programs in the upcoming economic recovery package. We believe appropriate funding should be provided for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Women, Infants and Children’s Program (WIC), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Senior Nutrition Programs, and the School Meals Programs. It is critical that the recovery package not only include funding to increase benefits but also include funding for administrative costs. Specifically, we request that the following funds be include d in the economic recovery package that is considered in the 111th Congress:

· SNAP – 20 percent temporary increase in the maximum food stamp level above the FY 2009 level for two years (approximately $24 billion) and an increase in funds for state food stamp administrative costs ($250 million). Families are struggling to deal with the rising cost of food and current food stamp benefits are based on outdated data.

· TEFAP – increase in funds for the purchase of additional commodities ($100 million); increase for state and local distribution costs ($50 million); and an increase in Food Bank infrastructure grants ($15 million). This funding will help local food banks cope with rapidly increasing demand and a possible decline in donations this holiday season.

· WIC – increase funding to make up for shortfall not covered in the current Continuing Resolution ($450 million) and increases for management information system and related infrastructure improvements ($50 million)

· CSFP – provide funding to allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to replenish its food stocks in order to prevent smaller food packages or decreased participation in the program ($30 million). Seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, rely on CSFP to make ends meet.

· Senior Nutrition Programs – provide an increase in funding for Older Americans Act (OAA) programs and services vital to vulnerable elders ($60 million) with funding split between Congregate Nutrition Services ($40.75 million) and Home-Delivered Nutrition Services ($19.25 million).

· School meals – provide a 15 cent increase in funding for breakfast and lunch programs ($1 billion). Many school districts are facing potentially painful cuts as property tax revenues decline, and we have a moral obligation to make sure kids have enough to eat.

We understand that the economic recovery package will be large and we recognize this is a large request. However, we feel that it is justified based on the impact this funding will have both on the economy and on the lives of the people living in the United States who are trying to make ends meet. We know that an increase in the SNAP program, formerly known as Food Stamps, provides a direct and immediate stimulus to the economy. The continuing rising cost of food not only makes it difficult for families to put nutritious food on their tables, it is also making it difficult for food banks and food pantries to stock their shelves. Schools are not only reducing the quality of the meals they provide to our children, they are having to cut costs in other areas to provide less nutritious food to children who aren’t getting food from home. All of these factors are reasons why WIC funds are being exhausted at alarming rates and are why we need to provide increased funds. A dditionally, we need to ensure that states have the administrative funds to process the additional services the provided with the increases in benefits.

We thank you for your commitment to fixing the economy and your commitment to low- and middle-income families who are clearly struggling to make ends meet. We strongly and respectfully request that you include these funds in the economic recovery package and we look forward to working with you on this important measure.
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