(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) today joined Reps. James P. McGovern (D-MA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) in urging House and Senate leaders to prioritize assistance for hungry and food insecure families in upcoming COVID-19 emergency relief packages. The letter was co-signed by 136 of their colleagues. 

“SNAP is one of our country’s most vital social safety nets, and it will continue to play a critical role in reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty throughout the COVID-19 health crisis,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter. “We urge you to incorporate provisions that will: (1) boost the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent; (2) increase the monthly minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30; and (3) place a hold on harmful rules proposed by the Executive Branch that weaken SNAP eligibility and benefits.”

As unemployment claims surge, experts are warning that the number of American families struggling to put food on the table is likely to increase dramatically in the coming weeks as wages are lost and food pantries struggle to meet demand. In 2019, SNAP assisted nearly 38 million Americans experiencing hunger or food insecurity. The average SNAP benefit comes to only $1.40 per person, per meal and nearly half of all families helped by SNAP use up their entire benefit at the beginning of the month.

The lawmakers’ request is not without precedent. At the height of the Great Recession in 2009, the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped prevent large increases in poverty and hunger by increasing the maximum SNAP benefit by 13.6 percent, totaling to $1.74 per person per meal.

The lawmakers’ letter also calls for swift legislative action to prevent new Trump Administration rules from taking affect which collectively could kick millions of Americans off of food assistance in the middle of a global health emergency.

“The [rules] circumvent congressional intent as laid-out in the 2018 Farm Bill, and short of rescinding them, all three rules at the very least should be stayed until the economy shows significant improvement,” wrote the lawmakers.

A copy of the letter is available here.