(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today joined U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony G. Brown, and David Trone (all D-Md.) in sending a letter to Congressional leadership urging them to prioritize important policies for the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) in the next COVID-19 relief legislative package. As the COVID-19 crisis has devastated the economy and left many out of work in Maryland and nationwide, food assistance programs should be top of mind as negotiators work on the next legislative package.

“SNAP plays a critical role in our nation’s social safety net and helps protect families, especially women, young children, and seniors, from poverty and hunger,” write the Members. “A statewide stay-at-home order and the closure of non-essential businesses have left many of our state’s residents out of work and struggling to pay their bills and meet basic needs. Many Marylanders have turned to their local food banks and SNAP for assistance.”

They go on to urge specific increases, writing, “we request that you increase the maximum SNAP benefit for all recipients by increasing the thrifty food plan by at least 15 percent to all households and increase the monthly minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 for all households. A 15 percent increase to the maximum benefit is equivalent to an additional $25 per person per month. Currently, the average SNAP benefit per person is $1.40 per meal each day – which is not enough to purchase a meal, especially in a high-cost state like Maryland.”

The Members emphasize the necessity to strengthen SNAP against any harmful regulations, including three rules put forward by the USDA last year. “These rules would needlessly cut off SNAP benefits for tens of thousands of Marylanders and should never take effect, but this is especially the case during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they write. 

They also call attention to the fact that many low-income and underrepresented college students have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. They urge, “We request that you expand SNAP eligibility to certain college students, specifically students who receive the maximum Pell Grant award, are in foster care, a veteran of the Armed Forces, or are classified as an unaccompanied youth who is homeless.”

Lastly, the Members argue the need to extend the SNAP recertification process for vulnerable populations, writing, “we ask that you extend the SNAP recertification period from 12 to 36 months for households with members who are elderly, disabled, or enrolled in Medicaid or the Medicare Savings Program. We know that there are circumstances under which SNAP-eligible individuals have their SNAP coverage lapse in the event they do not complete their recertification in a timely manner, which is always problematic, but especially during this crisis.”

The full text of the letter is available here.