Tomorrow is Election Day. We know the journey has been loud and long and exhausting, but we’ve almost reached the finish line—whatever that may look like. Don’t lose momentum now. Make sure you go vote. Don’t stay home because you’re tired, because you feel like your vote doesn’t matter, or for any other reason. No matter what, it’s times like these—when we have the opportunity to make our voices heard—that we need to take our tired feet to the polls. Our democracy only works when every single one of us get involved.
The Coalition Against Hunger has been tirelessly working to combat hunger and poverty issues in Southeastern PA. We’d like to take today to reflect on that work and update you, our supporters, on some current anti-hunger policy issues at the Federal, State, and Local levels.
Federal Legislation and Policy Changes
While the Farm Bill did indeed "expire" on September 30th SNAP, TEFAP, and CSFP continue to be funded and are operating as usual. FINI grants, on the other hand, were only funded through fiscal year 2018 (The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program supports projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing incentives at the point of purchase. Locally, The Food Trust has a FINI grant that helps support Philly Food Bucks). Both the House and Senate farm bills include funding for FINI to continue, but applications for new FINI grants for the next fiscal year may be delayed until a new Farm Bill is enacted. House and Senate Agriculture Committee chairpersons continue to negotiate the terms of a final Farm Bill, which is no small task given how different the versions passed by each chamber are. The Senate version, which protects SNAP and strengthens programs that can help SNAP participants find and keep a good-paying jobs, passed on a bipartisan basis by the in June. In contrast, the bill passed by the U.S. House imposes harsh work requirements and additional red tape that would cause more than 2 million people to either completely lose their benefits or see a significant reduction. All indications are that Farm Bill is one of the bills Congress will prioritize in the "lame duck" period after the election. We will keep you posted!
Last month, the Trump Administration proposed a change to the longstanding Public Charge Rule in the Federal Register. If this change takes effect, immigration officials can use receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy, Medicaid, and several housing and rental assistance programs as grounds for determining an immigrant to be a ‘public charge’ (a person who primarily depends on government assistance). The simple fact is only legal immigrants have access to benefits, and many have a five-year waiting period to even access SNAP. While most immigrants in the US are exempt from the public charge rule, many are already too scared to receive benefits that they qualify for and could help them with basic needs. This rule change will increase fear, cause long-term harm to children’s health and wellbeing, and cost more money to implement than it saves. Before the rule change can be adopted, there is a 60 day open comment period in which every American can submit a unique and personal comment. You can comment and ask the Department of Homeland Security not to approve this rule change clicking on this link: www.frac.org/publiccharge
PA Sate Legislation
Over the past few months, the PA State Legislature passed two bills designed to put even more barriers in the path of our most vulnerable neighbors throughout the Commonwealth;
1) Medicaid Work Requirement Bill (House Bill 2138), which would impose work requirements on non-elderly, non-disabled working age adults who are not pregnant or in school. HB 2138 passed out of the Legislature, but was fortunately vetoed by Governor Wolf.
2) Senate Bill 6, adds needless red tape for cash assistance and SNAP applicants, and creates additional hurdles on the path to recovery for women with drug addictions. The bill passed through the Legislature last month and was immediately signed by Governor Wolf. However, some of the provisions in the bill are inconsistent with federal law and the Wolf Administration’s larger goals for Pennsylvania. DHS is working to see how the new law will be implemented, and we’ll make sure to let you know what’s going on as we know more.
PA State Iniciatives
CAH and many of our partners active in the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition (PHAC) will be hosting a "Lunch and Learn" event for old and new PA legislators in early 2019. We will have a robust program where we educate Legislators on food insecurity in their communities and policies and programs they can support to make a difference.
Local Legislation and Campaigns
1) Here in Philadelphia, one of the most important efforts we’re supporting is the passage of the Fair Scheduling Act (Philly City Council Bill No. 180649). This is a critical policy that will not only provide protections for low-wage workers across Philadelphia, but also help communities combat our city’s persistently high rates of poverty and food insecurity. The bill requires Philly employers to give employees advanced notice of their schedules, this ensuring that more Philadelphia workers can plan for things like childcare and accurately budget for their needs.
2) This year, the School District of Philadelphia will appoint a new School Board. This provides The Coalition, anti-hunger, health promotion, and other partners with the perfect opportunity to engage new stakeholders, and educate them on the benefits of school breakfast and its critical role in supporting other District goals. We will be working with partners to push the new School Board to adopt an equitable school breakfast policy that enables each and every student to start the day ready to learn.
3) Last year we asked all Philly schools to enter the School Breakfast Challenge. Schools that drastically improved the number of students who participated in school breakfast were eligible for cash prizes. Of the 42 schools that participated, the winners are as follows;
- First place and $1,000 prize: Francis Scott Key (K-6) with a 67.6 point increase (from 11.3% to 78.9%)
- Second place and $750 prize: T.M. Peirce (K-6) with a 58.8 point increase (from 21.7% to 80.5%)
- Third place and $500 prize: James Blaine (K-8) with a 52.0 point increase (from 27.7% to 79.7%)