In expectation of the coronavirus crisis worsening, the federal government has granted states options to waive coming work restrictions and increase certain benefits for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, and provides $500 million in additional funding for the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed late last week by President Donald Trump, also provides updates to the Family and Medical Leave Act, including additional paid leave to some workers, additional funding for unemployment insurance and free testing for COVID-19.
What follows is a synopsis of changes shared by FMI-The Food Industry Association and the Wisconsin Grocers Association:
WIC: The $500 million in additional funding for the WIC program will run through Sept. 30 and is in expectation of an uptick in participation due to the virus.
Industry leaders are, in the meantime, urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the WIC program, to exercise its authority to allow some national product substitutions and additional flexibility as availability challenges due to a surge in shopping hit retail.
“Substitution is key on WIC, especially due to inventory pacing and availability of products,” Heather Garlich, VP of media and public relations for FMI, said in an email to WGB. Arlington, Va.-based FMI also will ask the USDA to put in a national moratorium on WIC stocking compliance checks, she added.
SNAP: The bill allows states the ability to waive current work requirements for SNAP participants. This includes the able-bodied adult without dependents final rule that was scheduled to go into effect on April 1.
The bill also will adjust benefits for families with children affected by school closures.
Commonly called “P-SNAP,” families whose kids participate in school lunches can get a “plus up” of benefits to mirror the value of the lunches they are not receiving when their school is closed due to the coronavirus.
Additionally, the act allows states to issue benefits to families with kids on school lunches who are not already participating in SNAP. Schools must be closed for a minimum of five consecutive days in order to trigger the benefit.
States may do this distribution through their SNAP electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system. FMI advocated for the use of traditional SNAP EBT cards over WIC, or a hybrid card.
CR SNAP: Under CR SNAP (CR for COVID-19 response), states that have declared an emergency or disaster can request a waiver from the USDA to take SNAP participants up to the maximum benefit level for the household.
The USDA sets national benefit maximums per SNAP household annually. In 2019, the maximum monthly benefit for a household of four was $642 and the average was $442. The new plan would increase that to about $50 per person a month, FMI said.