WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today released the following statement on Senate passage of the American Rescue Plan Act:
“We are one step closer to providing the bold assistance needed to help farmers, families, and rural communities get back on track and survive this pandemic.
“With over 50 million families experiencing a hunger crisis, I was pleased to lead the effort to ensure the bill helps families put food on the table. The American Rescue Plan Act also includes my provisions to support farmers by repairing gaps in the food supply chain and protecting frontline food workers. We’re also making sure more families in our small towns and rural communities have access to vaccines and health care during the pandemic.”
Chairwoman Stabenow led efforts to secure the following provisions in the bill, which:
Provides Food Assistance for Children, Families, and Seniors Facing Hunger
The bill addresses the hunger crisis for children, families, and seniors across the country. As many as 50 million Americans have not been able to feed themselves or their families and need continued support to put food on the table.
- Extends food assistance boost: Extends the 15% increase in SNAP benefits for all participants through September 30, 2021. Provides support to states to implement this change.
- Allows families to purchase groceries safely online: Invests in technological improvements to expand access for families to use their SNAP benefits to buy groceries online.
- Provides healthy food for moms and babies: Expands access to more fruits and vegetables for moms and babies and makes needed investments in innovation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
- Expands food access for children: Makes the successful Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program available for the duration of the health emergency, including through the summer, to allow families with children receiving school meals to more easily purchase healthy food during the pandemic.
- Provides food for seniors: Provides $37 million for senior nutrition through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
- Provides meals for homeless young adults: Includes meals for at-risk young adults up to age 25 at homeless shelters through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
- Directs nutrition assistance to the territories: Provides $1 billion in nutrition assistance for the territories.
Strengthens the Food Supply Chain
Inspired by Chairwoman Stabenow’s bipartisan Food Supply Protection Act, the bill provides $4 billion to respond to COVID-19 disruptions in the food supply chain and makes long-term investments to increase the resiliency of the food supply in the future.
- Increases food donations: Purchases more food from farmers for distribution through food banks, nonprofits, or restaurants, helping to feed families in need and support farmers’ bottom lines.
- Helps to protect food workers: Provides grants and loans to purchase personal protective equipment, test kits, and other measures to keep essential food workers safe.
- Improves infrastructure: Provides infrastructure investments and retooling support for food processors, farmers markets, food banks, and producers to build resiliency in the food supply for the long term.
- Supports livestock and animal health: Provides funding to monitor COVID-19 in animals and reduces overtime inspection fees paid by small meat and poultry processors.
Supports Farmers of Color
Inspired by the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock, Cory Booker, and Ben Ray Luján, the bill provides $5 billion in debt relief and assistance to farmers of color who have faced decades of discrimination in agriculture and have seen disproportionate impacts from the pandemic.
- Provides debt relief: Pays off burdensome debts that have prevented many farmers of color from being able to grow and sustain their farms, especially during the pandemic.
- Expands opportunities for communities of color: Provides funding to USDA to create a racial equity commission and address longstanding discrimination across USDA by investing in land access, outreach, business development, and more.
Invests in Rural Health Care
Many rural hospitals and healthcare providers faced significant financial challenges even before the pandemic. Today they are in dire financial straits. The bill provides important assistance to strengthen rural health care.
- Expands vaccine distribution: Increases capacity to provide vaccines in rural areas.
- Purchases needed medical supplies: Provides medication and supplies needed to increase medical surge capacity.
- Helps rural hospitals make up for high costs and lost revenue: Provides assistance to help hospitals stay afloat by reimbursing COVID-19 related expenses.
- Increases telehealth capabilities: Helps rural patients access health care safely through telemedicine so that they can get help no matter where they live.