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Chairwoman Stabenow Helps Secure Food, Agriculture, and Rural Investments in the COVID-19 Assistance Package

Bill includes Chairwoman Stabenow’s provisions to fill gaps in the food supply chain, feed families in need, support farmers of color, and invest in rural hospitals

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 regarding the food, agriculture, and rural provisions in the latest COVID-19 assistance package, which strengthens the food supply chain, addresses the hunger crisis, supports farmers of color, and invests in rural hospitals.

“We need to take bold action to get farmers, families, and rural communities the help they need to weather this crisis and come out stronger on the other end,” said Chairwoman Stabenow. “I partnered with my House colleagues to ensure the bill includes vital support to help families put food on the table, strengthen the food supply chain for farmers, provide critical support for farmers of color and fund rural hospitals.”

Chairwoman Stabenow worked with House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott 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 and 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 through the summer as well as during the school year 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.

Strengthens the Food Supply Chain

Inspired by Chairwoman Stabenow’s bipartisan Food Supply Protection Act, the bill responds to the 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, and producers to build resiliency in the food supply in the long term.

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 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.
  • Expands opportunities for communities of color: Provides funding to USDA to create a racial equity commission and to address longstanding discrimination across USDA by investing in land access, legal assistance, outreach, business development, and more.

Invests in Rural Hospitals

Many rural hospitals faced significant financial challenges even before the pandemic. Today they are in dire financial straits. The bill provides important relief to rural hospitals by providing them with grants.

  • 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.