coronavirus food bank national guard

Advocates for the poor are seeking to use CARES Act federal dollars to double the benefit for those on food stamps in December. Here, Army National Guard Spc. Kali Dwyer of Alton loads food into an SUV at a mobile food pantry at the Comcast parking lot in Manchester last summer. 

Families on food stamps could receive twice as much money for December under a proposal for federal COVID-19 relief funds made by a coalition of advocates for the poor.

The NH Hunger Solutions and its 11 partners came up with the concept of using some of the remaining federal CARES Act dollars to provide an “emergency” allotment to people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). An estimated 70,000 New Hampshire residents receive SNAP services.

“This would provide direct aid to hungry families and is a proven stimulus for local economies. In fact, for every $1 in SNAP benefits $1.74 is generated in economic stimulus,” the group wrote in a joint letter to Gov. Chris Sununu.

The partners to the letter included NH Legal Assistance, Easterseals NH, New Futures, Waypoint and Amoskeag Health.

House and Senate Democratic leaders hope to discuss the proposal when the Legislative Advisory Board meets Monday. Their request is to use $11.9 million of remaining CARES Act money to increase the aid, providing each individual of a family receiving SNAP benefits an additional $169 in December.

“Further, this influx of aid would allow families to do what many of us take for granted — the ability to stock up on non-perishables and avoid frequent trips to the store during the pandemic,” wrote four members of the advisory board, including Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and House Speaker Stephen Shurtleff, D-Penacook.

“Thank you for considering this initiative to combat food insecurity in our state and quickly deliver aid to hungry families ahead of the holidays and the onset of winter.”

Supporters note the cost of administering the increase would be minimal as it could be automatically programmed into the electronic benefit transfer cards used for SNAP benefits.

Sununu has already approved using $2 million in CARES Act money as a direct grant to the New Hampshire Food Bank and set up another $3 million reserve account for other related expenses if they are needed.

New Hampshire Legal Assistance Policy Director Dawn McKinney said a household survey by the U.S. Census found one in six families said they were food insecure — two-and-a-half times the number reported two years ago.

“Food costs have clearly gone up for everyone, and while SNAP is limited only to food, household expenses have gone up for things such as masks, hand sanitizer and the like,” McKinney said.

Many families that received increased unemployment benefits during the pandemic lost their SNAP benefits as a result, she said.

“Now, some of that extra unemployment help has ended and these folks need to realize they could be eligible to reapply. Some states have seen their enrollments in SNAP go up and New Hampshire has not,” McKinney said.

If approved, the increase would also come as the moratorium on evictions ends in December.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021