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Clocks Show More than 51 Days Since House Passed Bill with Food Boost
Four in Ten U.S. Children Now Struggle Against Hunger
Advocates Blast Senators for “Playing Politics While Their Constituents Go Hungry”
“Food Delayed Is Food Denied” and Could Lead to More Pandemic Deaths
Advocates Call on Public to Help Pressure the Senate by Signing Petition or Donating
Hunger Free America, a nationwide nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, is now running digital billboard ads in Kentucky to blast Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul for blocking more than $16 billion in food aid for struggling Americans, including nearly $133 million for Kentuckians. The group is running similar billboards in five other states (AZ, GA, FL, PA, and TX) to slam eight other GOP Senators (Cornyn, Cruz, Loeffler, McSally, Perdue, Rubio, Scott, and Toomey) for also blocking that food assistance, as well as to push one Senate Democrat (Sinema) to fight more publicly and enthusiastically for it.
The billboards -- such as the one below that is running in Kentucky -- feature a “hunger clock” showing that, as of July 6, it had been more than 51 days since the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act, which includes a large-scale increase in domestic hunger funding. While Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and most other Senate Democrats support this increase in food aid, Leader McConnell and the Republican Senate majority have, to date, refused to even consider this bill.
Child hunger is soaring across America during the current health and economic crises, with 37 percent of parents nationwide cutting the size of meals or skipping meals for their children because they did not have enough money for food in April, according to a poll by Hunger Free America.
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, said: “It is simply unconscionable that Leader McConnell and the Senate GOP are playing politics with food aid while massive numbers of their own constituents struggle against hunger. Food delayed is food denied. Most of them represent states with hunger rates higher than the national average. Not only would this food support feed hungry people in their home states, but it would also preserve or create local jobs, and thereby help the economy get back on its feet. It is simply shocking that, by his own admission, McConnell is blocking these and other vital aid measures in that bill because he says he doesn’t want to help ‘blue states.’ While we want to be clear that both sides are not equally to blame for this delay, we are also disappointed that Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has not spoken out publicly in favor of the immediate passage of this vital food support at a time when so many Arizona families are going hungry, which is why we also included her in this ad campaign.”
The Heroes Act passed by the House provides a 15 percent increase in benefits for SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program). That hike would increase the average SNAP benefit nationwide by about 20 cents per meal, from the current level of $1.34 per meal to about $1.54 per meal. The bill also includes a $150 million increase for funding to charitable food banks, soup kitchens, and food pantries, many of which are faith based. Additionally, the bill boosts nutrition support for low-income pregnant women and infants, provides extra food help to children whose school meals programs have been closed during the pandemic, and reimburses school districts for extra food distribution costs during this crisis.
The Heroes Act also includes funding for other non-food-related items that could significantly reduce hunger, such as: another round of stimulus checks to millions of eligible Americans; an extended increase in unemployment benefits; suspended interest and payments on federal student loans, rent and mortgage assistance; hazard pay for essential workers; and aid to state and local governments. McConnell, speaking on a conservative radio program, derided the bill as “blue state bailouts,” despite the massive amount of food and money that it would provide to his home state of Kentucky, as well as to other states that usually vote Republican.
Even before the pandemic, polling conducted by Hunger Free America found that a large majority of voters of both parties, in all states, supported hikes in federal government spending to reduce hunger.
The current hunger emergency will also make the health crisis worse. Hunger decreases immunity from diseases, and thus makes it more likely for hungry people to both contract and transmit COVID-19 and other diseases. Because junk food is usually cheaper than healthier food, food insecurity also increases the likelihood of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and other conditions which in turn, make it more probable that people will die from COVID-19 and other related ailments.
Continued Berg, “Let’s be clear: this delay in food aid may lead to even more Americans unnecessarily dying. The opposition of Congressional Republicans and President Trump to increasing domestic food support during the worst health and hunger crises in modern times is not only morally outrageous and economically self-defeating, but it is also, frankly, dumb politics. Once the American people learn about this food aid hold up, they will be incensed. That is why we urge the public to help us ramp up pressure on Senate Republicans to pass this food assistance immediately.”
Hunger Free America urged the public to go to the website www.hungerfreeamerica.org/nationalhungerclock to help in one, or all, of the following three ways:
1) Sign a petition to the U.S. Senate asking it to pass the food aid immediately.
2) Donate to increase the number of such billboards in Kentucky and other states or donate to support the other vital work of Hunger Free America.
3) Share their stories of how the delay in food help is worsening hunger in their own home communities.
“Only people power can force an end to this deadly political grandstanding,” concluded Berg.