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Biden moving forward with additional food assistance ahead of stimulus

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A man wearing a mask receives part of a hot meal at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen on December 15, 2020 in New York City.
Robert Nickelsberg | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that will help restaurants partner with cities and nonprofits to provide food assistance in a move that advocates say will help more families get the food they need.

In an executive order signed Tuesday, Biden directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 100% of the cost to states and localities so they can partner with restaurants and nonprofits to prepare meals for soup kitchens and food pantries to distribute.

The order essentially made the bipartisan FEED Act a reality without a Congressional vote. The proposal, which was originally part of the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion emergency relief proposal, is a win-win that allows restaurants to stay open and pay employees to prepare meals for the needy. 

"This brings forward every single resource from the government to help address this national hunger," says Monica Gonzales, director of federal advocacy at No Kid Hungry. By passing the executive order, Gonzales says that it means nonprofits, restaurants and local communities don't have to wait to see if the program would "languish in legislative limbo." "This is done, this is available." 

Almost 24 million Americans, about 11%, are sometimes or often not getting enough to eat during the week, according to the latest Census Bureau survey fielded in mid-January. That's a significant increase from pre-pandemic analysis that estimated about 8.5 million Americans went hungry at some point in 2019, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

To help slow this crisis, the Biden administration has proposed extending the 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September 2021, an update that is estimated to keep 40 million Americans out of hunger. Biden is also pushing for a $3 billion investment in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) as well as another $1 billion to be directed toward U.S. territories to help fund additional nutrition assistance. 

The Senate budget resolution began the reconciliation process on Friday morning, paving the way for Congress to pass Biden's relief package in the coming days.

"The scope of this epidemic has been unprecedented," Gonzales says, but added the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a lot of opportunity for nonprofits and food assistance programs to innovate how they help the needy. And proposals like the FEED Act are a step in that direction, she says.

Check out: Lawmakers allocate $13 billion to food assistance programs in an effort to alleviate hunger crisis

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