Wilk, CA lawmakers urge Congress to include nutrition programs in new COVID relief deal

Volunteers Rudy Lopez, left, and Bryan Orozco prepare boxes of food to be loaded into the hundreds of vehicles in line during Supervisor Kathryn Barger's Food Distribution event held at Castaic Lake State Recreation Area in Castaic on Tuesday, November 10, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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California senators, including Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, are urging Congress to include three key nutrition programs in the new coronavirus relief deal as food insecurity has increased across the country. 

A bipartisan letter from state legislators sent to Congress Tuesday asks that they include in the federal relief package increased benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more support for food banks from The Emergency Food Assistance Program and that they ensure Pandemic EBT reaches all eligible children in child care settings. 

“Failure to take these actions could worsen hunger, which is increasing at alarming rates, and have devastating consequences for children who are not receiving sufficient nutrition due to resources limitations in child care settings,” read the letter. 

Food insecurity has doubled across the country and tripled in households with children since the start of the pandemic in March, according to a Northwestern Institute for Policy Research report that used June data from the USDA. 

The letter pointed to P-EBT feeding more than 3.7 million of California’s “needy school-age children” since the health crisis began, as well as pointing to the economic benefits of increasing the SNAP program. 

“As shown in a Department of Agriculture study, every dollar in new SNAP benefits increases gross domestic product by about $1.50 during a weak economy,” read the letter. 

Congress has already increased funding for food banks and passed bills that allow states to use the Pandemic EBT program, which provides low-income families with funds to buy food when schools are closed due to COVID-19 and for which the California senators thanked Congress “for your leadership to establish and extend the program.”

With “unprecedented” hunger across the nation, however, state lawmakers are asking for more help. 

The letter comes as U.S. lawmakers continue to negotiate details of the new COVID-19 relief deal of about $900 billion, which could include a second round of stimulus checks of $600 to $700. 

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