Health, Opportunity, and Personal Empowerment (HOPE)
In January 2020, U.S. Representative Joe Morelle and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the HOPE Act bill, which would revolutionize the way low-income Americans are able to apply for and access public benefits. Individuals who are eligible for public benefits including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) often have to submit multiple, duplicative applications to various government agencies in order to apply for assistance. With the HOPE Act, applicants would use pilot projects to most efficiently utilize updated technology to apply for multiple benefits at once, saving them time in addition to providing better coordination between government agencies and nonprofit organizations assisting applicants.
Hunger Free America fully endorses the HOPE Act as one crucial way to better assist the 37 million Americans who live below the federal poverty line.
As outlined in the one-pager below, the Hope Act would:
1. Authorize three federal agencies—HUD, USDA, and HHS—to enable select state, county, city, and tribal governments to create pilot programs in economically distressed rural, urban, and suburban areas as well as state-wide.
2. Leverage client-facing technology to coordinate access to multiple government agencies that work on anti-poverty, health care, nutrition, housing, work support programs, and nonprofit aid for low-income Americans.
3. Establish voluntary accounts that empower low-income families to easily access and monitor—within one central online account—the status, summary, and recertification deadlines for all their benefits and savings.
4. Establish a merit-based competition to award HOPE Technology Innovation Contracts that help ensure client-facing technology apps, widgets, and templates are created for pilot entities to use to create meaningful HOPE Accounts.
Advocating for Congress to Include the HOPE Act in the Next COVID-19 Relief Bill
In May 2020, Hunger Free America joined Congressman Morelle and Senator Gillibrand in calling on members of Congress to include the HOPE Act in the next federal relief bill. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, unprecedented numbers of individuals have found themselves unemployed, unable to afford groceries, and in need of public assitance. Government agencies have been overwhelmed by this demand, making the need for updated applications that much more vital.
Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg said:
“We have long championed the idea of making it easier for low-income people to apply online for a wide variety of benefits, and enable them to voluntarily agree with government and nonprofit agencies on plans to increase their long-term economic opportunity. Given the massive backlog that many states and counties are now facing in processing unemployment and food benefits due to this crisis, these improvements are needed more urgently than ever. We are very grateful that Congressman Morelle and Senator Gillibrand are taking the lead in turning this idea into reality. HOPE accounts and actions plans have the potential to dramatically improve and modernize safety net programs both during the crisis and beyond - thereby both reducing poverty in America and ensuring more program efficiency for taxpayers.”
Read a summary of the bill section by section:
Read the full legislation: