BOSTON (State House News Service) – Prior to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health set for September 28, Congressman Jim McGovern is promoting the findings of a study on impacts of increased aid for people during the pandemic, with COVID-era expansions of SNAP and federal cash tax credit payments.
A Worcester Democrat, McGovern said during a press conference on Tuesday that aid expansion “worked,” reducing food insecurity for low-income people during the pandemic.
“The American Rescue Plan worked, expanding the Child Tax Credit worked, expanding SNAP benefits worked,” he said. “These programs did what they were designed to do. They directly and concretely helped people living in economic hardship, they reduced food insecurity, they blunted some of the most catastrophic impacts of the pandemic.”
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, which published the research study on Tuesday, researcher Benjamin Kupersmit, and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro joined McGovern at the virtual press conference.
McGovern said the findings are important leading up to the conference at which the Biden White House will announce a national strategy for the government to address crises of hunger and malnutrition. The congressman said he believes the conference will be “transformational” in the government’s approach to fighting hunger.
The Biden administration has set a goal of “ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity in the U.S. by 2030 so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”
“The most important takeaway as we head toward the White House Conference on September 28, is that we do not need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to ending hunger. We know what works. We know that a little bit of extra help goes a long way,” McGovern said.
The American Rescue Plan increased the child tax credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child for children who are six or older, and from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under the age of six, and raised the age limit from 16 to 17 in 2021. The extra payments expired at the end of 2021 and were in play for reinstatement during talks on another pair of major bills, but have not been renewed in the Senate.
DeLauro said pushing to renew the expanded CTC was a priority for Democrats moving forward.
The Hunger Free America study reported that 83 percent of participants who received the expanded CTC were able to obtain enough or healthier food; 74 percent were able to pay their rent or mortgage; and nearly half were able to save money for the future or make major purchases.
SNAP benefits have been expanded both by legislative acts in Congress and administrative actions by the Biden administration, in states where governors have not declined to accept the SNAP boost.
The study reported that 65 percent of respondents said they received expanded SNAP benefits, and of them, 93 percent said expanded benefits prevented them and their family from going hungry. Ninety percent said the benefits helped them buy more nutritious food.
The study used a sample of 60 participants across 12 states. Researchers interviewed low-income people who received increased federal aid during the pandemic.
The published report includes quotes from the interviewed participants about how expanded aid benefitted them and their families. McGovern highlighted some of these quotes at Tuesday’s press event.
“This is not a luxurious plan, this is how my family and others like me have been surviving,” McGovern said, reading from the survey. Another participant said, “It means we didn’t have to buy the cheap food, and you could get more healthier options instead of frozen meals or Hamburger Helper, that’s loaded with sodium and makes us gain weight.”
McGovern also read a quote from a participant asking the government to reinstate and bolster the expanded aid.
“Get off your ass and vote this back, because we need it. We don’t get big government checks, and we don’t live in fancy houses – I’ve got a single, wide trailer with two kids and the floor is falling through. We need help. Do the job we elected you into office for,” McGovern read.
The White House conference will be the first executive conference to address hunger, nutrition and health in more than 50 years.