President Biden is hitting the ground running with a series of executive orders today that will directly impact families that are feeling the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic the hardest. One of those orders expands benefits received by families through the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program, a program that covers costs of food for families with children who would normally receive breakfast and lunch through their school district. An increase of 15 percent, or about $50 per month, for a family with three children is expected.
According to data from the latest Census Household Pulse survey, 18 percent of households with children reported food insecurity in December 2020, compared to only 3-4 percent of households with children in 2019. With the unemployment rate at an all-time high due to the COVID pandemic, many families are struggling to afford basic necessities like food and household goods. School closures have also made the problem worse, as many parents haven’t been able to collect free breakfast and lunch for their children in a safe manner.
Friday’s executive orders also expand Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to cover approximately 12 million people who were ineligible under former President Trump. SNAP (f.k.a. food stamps) provides a monthly dividend to be spent on qualifying foods. Biden’s order also expands on the type of food that are considered nutritious, thereby increasing the diversity in what is available under SNAP rules.
“The most effective way to ensure families with children have enough to eat is by providing them with the resources to purchase the food they need,” Lisa Davis, senior vice president at Share Our Strength, which seeks to end hunger and poverty, told CNN. “And, since these benefits are spent quickly at local grocery stores and markets, they also stimulate local economies.”
Biden also plans to sign an order requiring federal contractors to pay employees a minimum of $15 per hour. The increase will more than double the amount of the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour which has been shown to not meet the standards of a living wage in our current economy. (Now, if we can get that expanded to all other employers in the country, we’ll be a little closer to making sure parents can feed and clothe their children without having to work multiple jobs.)
The Biden administration stresses that these are not a substitution for legislation in the Congress. They’re a good step forward until Congress considers the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan, which includes much more to help families with and without children.
Keep your kids busy during school closures with these activities.