The HEROES Act, originally passed in the House last May, would raise the maximum benefit under SNAP by 15% through September of next year.
But there has been no increase in the benefit in COVID relief bills passed by Republicans in the Senate.
Amy Hill, director of community engagement for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, said since the pandemic began they’ve seen about a 50% increase in the number of people asking for food assistance, many of them for the first time.
“The 15% would help put a few more healthy things on the dinner table that really is going to make a big, big difference for the families who participate,” Hill emphasized.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate until Nov. 9, ending prospects for passing a new stimulus bill until well after the election.
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America,
acknowledged raising the maximum SNAP benefit by 15% would cost at least $10 billion, but said the added nutritional benefits would save many times that in extra health-care costs.
“Spending money to improve the nutritional status of tens of millions of low-income Americans is about the most cost-effective investment this nation could make,” Berg contended.
The total price tag for the HEROES Act as updated by the House in September would be $2.2 trillion.
Over 16 months, a 15% increase in SNAP would raise the benefits available in Pennsylvania by more than $490 million. And Hill said the extra funds do more than help low-income people buy nutritious food.
“It helps the families who are enrolled in SNAP but it also is this economic stimulator, and we know we need some economic stimulus for small business in our communities,” Hill argued.
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank serves more than 200,000 people in 27 counties every month.