July 30, 2020

Cárdenas, Fudge Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Emergency Meals

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Marcia Fudge (OH-11) introduced the Expanding Access to Emergency Meals Act. This bill ensures that all low-income families have access to emergency meals funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance during future emergencies and disasters.

“The pandemic has thrown our economy into a tailspin,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “Millions of Americans are out of work, can’t afford rent, and unable to put food on the table. As the wealthiest nation in the world, it is unconscionable that there are American children going to bed hungry. This national emergency has been hardest on our most vulnerable and denying people access to food because they rely on government safety nets is wrong.  I’m proud to introduce this commonsense bill with Representative Fudge and support those who need it the most.”

The Expanding Access to Emergency Meals Act amends the Stafford Act to explicitly allow individuals participating in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other USDA nutrition programs to also participate in feeding programs funded using FEMA public assistance funds. Currently, the Stafford Act prohibits states from using FEMA public assistance funds to serve those already participating in a federal program that has a similar purpose.  For hungry families, this means if they participate in SNAP, they are ineligible from simultaneously participating in an emergency meals program funded by FEMA. 

“As the pandemic progresses and jobs disappear, more and more Americans are going to bed hungry every night,” said Rep. Fudge.  “With millions turning to food banks and food assistance programs, it is indefensible that hungry Americans cannot participate in emergency feeding programs simply because they rely on SNAP to make ends meet.  In fact, people who struggled with food insecurity before the pandemic have been hit hardest by this crisis and are precisely the people who need help most.  I’m proud to join with Congressman Cárdenas to introduce legislation that will help ensure no American goes hungry during the current pandemic and in future crises.”

"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," said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. "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."