Scads of House members streamed back to Capitol Hill on Friday to vote on the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency relief package after a congressman opposing the measure threatened to demand a recorded vote tally instead of a voice vote, and called for a quorum to be present.
The move forced lawmakers to travel over land and air back from their home districts despite health officials’ warnings against travel or contact with large groups.
The House voted to approve the measure Friday afternoon on an overwhelming voice vote and sent the bill to the White House to be signed into law.
The sweeping law includes provisions for individuals, small businesses, big corporations, hospitals and public health, federal safety net, state and local governments, and education.
The safety net portion includes $8.8 billion to allow schools more flexibility in how they delivers meals for students, $15.5 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to cover an expected spike in applications due to the coronavirus, and $450 million for food banks and other food distribution programs.
That’s short of the additional 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits advocates called for.
The president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Bob Greenstein, told legislators on March 23 that a 15 percent SNAP increase would help to bolster “a sputtering economy” that needs more consumer demand.
He said in a Tweet that “one of the most effective stimulus policies of the Great Recession was an increase in SNAP,” adding that many people will see drops in income and longer periods of joblessness.
Roni Neff and Erin Biehl, of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future argued in an op-ed for The Hill in mid-March that food security should be a top priority for government aid to protect poor families during the economic crisis.
They recommend expanding SNAP funding and other food assistance programs to help weather spikes in food prices, boost funding for the food stamp program’s online purchasing to help people under quarantine, and guarantee sick leave.
Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act last week, which included provisions for paid sick leave, free testing and expanded unemployment benefits.
The legislation also included nearly $1 billion to fight food insecurity.
Half of that amount will go to the “WIC” program, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
Congress Races To Address Food Insecurity In Its Legislative Response To Covid-19 (Civil Eats)
House Passes $2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill As Problems For Households And Businesses Continue To Mount (Washington Post)
What's Inside The Senate's $2 Trillion Coronavirus Aid Package (NPR)
Analysts Call For Snap Increases During Covid-19 Pandemic To Boost Food Security, Economy (Food Navigator)