Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Grace Meng (6th District of New York)
Correspondence urges President to support expanding programs such as food assistance, paid leave and unemployment insurance in next coronavirus relief package
QUEENS, NY – Today, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), State Senator Roxanne Persaud (D-Brooklyn), Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens) and Council Member Karen Koslowitz (D-Queens) led 94 New York elected officials from all levels of government in urging President Trump to support the expansion of critical safety net programs for New Yorkers, as N.Y. continues its fight against COVID-19. These programs include food assistance for children and seniors, hazard pay for essential workers, paid sick leave, additional funding for unemployment benefits and other essential initiatives. The letter is signed by New York elected officials from Congress, the New York State Legislature and New York City Council.
New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus health crisis, and the experiences of its hospitals and frontline health care workers, social service providers, municipal employees, educators, and other unsung heroes have served as both examples and warnings for regions facing later COVID-19 peak timelines. These lessons should serve as a critical guide in the next stimulus package.
“Over 30 million Americans—including 1.6 million New Yorkers—have filed for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the pandemic; this underscores how dire the situation is for millions of people,” said Congresswoman Meng. “New York City is the epicenter of the COVID-19 health crisis and critical human service programs like SNAP, child nutrition programs, WIC and TEFAP need more support than ever. These programs protect our most vulnerable from falling through the cracks. The President already has the authority to expand the capacity of some of these programs, and doing so will ease the burden of this crisis on our most vulnerable. He should move quickly to expand those programs and work with Congress to supercharge the accounts with funds. I thank my fellow elected officials for joining me in this timely letter to the President.”
“We simply can wait no longer for this assistance,” said Assemblyman Hevesi. “New York has served as the nation’s spearhead during the pandemic, and we have set the standard of how a responsible government reacts to a crisis. We have saved countless lives, and now we need the federal government to do its part.”
“New Yorkers are suffering right now,” said Senator Persaud, Chair of the Social Services Committee. “Without additional assistance from our federal government, more New Yorkers will go hungry, especially our vulnerable populations. The need for food is at a critical level and immediate action is needed. If the national statistics aren’t telling enough, look at the growing lines outside of community food pantries across our state.”
“It cannot be emphasized enough that every funding request in this letter has life and death implications,” said Councilwoman Koslowitz.
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
As members of the New York Congressional Delegation, New York State Assembly, New York State Senate, and New York City Council, we write to build upon the historic Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – the largest stimulus relief package that has ever been implemented in the United States. We write to ask for increased funding and administrative action in the next stimulus package to support critical human services programs, as well as to urge you to exercise your full authority to expand programs through executive orders and emergency authorities.
New York has been the epicenter of this crisis; the experiences of our hospitals and frontline healthcare workers, our social service providers, our municipal employees, and our educators have served as both examples and warnings for regions facing later COVID-19 peak timelines. As such, the lessons of New York City are critical to guide the human services provisions in the next stimulus package.
● Individual Assistance: In order for emergency assistance programs across agencies to be implemented, we urge you to promptly approve New York State’s application for Individual Assistance. This IA designation is critical to our ability to access federal programs in the most expansive way possible.
● Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Prior to the pandemic, 1.5 million New Yorkers were SNAP beneficiaries. We cannot yet calculate the number of new participants in this program as a result of the skyrocketing unemployment numbers that we have seen over the past month. We request that you suspend administrative requirements to facilitate enrollment and maintenance of benefits during this pandemic, including more flexible requirements for interviews, documentation, and verification; the expansion of USDA pilot programs that allow online SNAP purchases; issuance of waivers to permit SNAP benefits to be used for prepared and hot foods; and the removal of citizenship requirements. We also urge you to support additional increased funding for SNAP and for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP).
● Pandemic-EBT: We request that you approve Pandemic-EBT for New York State, support increased funding for this important program, and expand it to include all children.
● Child Nutrition Programs (CNP): Children are facing acute hunger. We request that the federal government increase reimbursements to three meals per child, per day and ensure continuous coverage through the pandemic, including through summer 2020. We also request that you support increased funding for CNPs.
● Senior Nutrition Programs (SNP): We request your support for increased funding for SNPs to provide home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors in New York, including meal delivery services to those homebound due to COVID-19 public health emergencies.
● Women, Infants and Children (WIC): We request your support to raise the age of eligibility for child participants in WIC; increase the Cash Value Benefit for WIC participants to allow for a higher benefit level for fruit and vegetable purchases; and for Secretary Perdue to use the flexibility provided in the Families First Act to provide a waiver for WIC’s cashier signature requirements.
● The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): We request that TEFAP be able to permit food pantries to utilize funds for salaries or volunteer stipends and waive all State and local match requirements for these expenses.
● Suspension of Public Charge: We appreciate that, as of this writing, Secretary Perdue has not implemented SNAP work requirements. We request that the Departments of Homeland Security and State follow suit and suspend implementation of the Public Charge Final Rules for all benefits.
● Designated Local Government Food Access Grants: We support grants to localities to fund emergency food access programs, including but not limited to City-operated meal distribution programs, reimbursement of costs associated with administering or supporting food donation programs, and support for non-City operated programs, including technical, administrative, training or staffing support.
● Increased Funding for Food Banks, Pantries, and Meal Delivery: We urge your support for increased funding for nonprofits offering emergency food access services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including local food banks and food pantries that are not funded by TEFAP and meal delivery services by non-profits.
● Local Government funding to support businesses essential to food supply: Provide additional funding available to local governments to ensure grocery stores and other businesses essential to the City’s food supply continue to operate safely during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This should include but not be limited to funding for the administration of workforce development programs, unemployed worker/employer matching programs, and costs associated with implementing public health and safety measures.
● Federal Hazard Pay for Essential Workers: We strongly support federal hazard pay for essential workers and ensuring that it is tied to regional cost of living and paid to employers as a pass-through to reach undocumented workforce. This includes those caring for children of essential workers, grocery workers, and critical utility workers.
● Emergency Federal Paid Sick Leave: Grant all employees and independent contractors 14 emergency paid sick days, to be reimbursed in full by the federal government.
● Unemployment Insurance Benefits: We urge the federal government to release additional funding for Unemployment Insurance Benefits, as directed by the CARES Act, to the states without delay. Numerous states, including New York, are providing enhanced unemployment benefits without having been reimbursed by the federal government. Other states have been unable to administer enhanced unemployment benefits due to a lack of available funds and resources. This will provide significant relief to states struggling with deficits as well as the individuals and families relying on this additional assistance.
Thank you for your consideration as we work together to get the United States back on its feet during this time. We look forward to your prompt reply.