D.C. Council member Christina Henderson has authored a bill seeking to assist recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more often referred to as SNAP.
Henderson, an at-large independent lawmaker, introduced the “Give SNAP a Raise Amendment of 2021,” which would increase the program’s minimum monthly to recipients by providing city funds to match their federal benefits under the Low-Cost Food Plan set by the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additionally, the bill would change the maximum benefit to 15% of the maximum allotment for a recipient’s family, as opposed to the current flat rate of $30.
Henderson’s bill emerges as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reported in 2019 that about 94,000 residents – nearly one-in-eight – count as recipients of SNAP. District government statistics reveal that during the pandemic, the number of residents receiving SNAP benefits increased to more than 136,000 residents, with Blacks representing 24%, facing food insecurity. Whites only accounted for 2%.
Henderson pointed out that the average SNAP benefit for a resident equated to $1.67 per meal in 2019. The legislator said that level of benefit leaves most recipients short each month by about $100 as they struggle to secure their food and dietary needs. She also noted that the present level of SNAP benefits fails to take into account residents who have specialized food needs and must often deal with higher grocery prices in the District.
“We know the pandemic has exacerbated food inequities across the District and investing local dollars in SNAP is one way to combat this trend,” Henderson said. “We have an obligation to provide resources for participants to purchase the healthy and necessary food options for their families.”
Beverly R. Wheeler, director of DC Hunger Solutions, praised the bill, saying her organization “is grateful that Council member Henderson understands that over 136,000 D.C. residents, in particular, and the District economy, as a whole, will benefit from giving SNAP a raise.”
Council members Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Robert White (D-At Large), Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) have signed on as supporters of Henderson’s bill.
The D.C. Council’s Committee on Human Services, chaired by Nadeau, held a hearing on the bill on April 28.