After four months of stalled negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled a $2.2 trillion compromise proposal for COVID-19 relief last evening. The proposal reduces aid and investments from the original $3.4 trillion included in the HEROES Act that passed the House in May, only to be ignored by the Senate and Administration. Nonetheless, it invests over $1 trillion more than Senate proposals released in late July.
The latest proposal includes $436 billion for state and local governments, rather than the nearly $1 trillion included in the HEROES Act. It sustains economic assistance such as another round of $1,200 direct cash payments and enhanced unemployment benefits at $600/week. These measures remain critically necessary for the recovery, as even Chairman Jerome Powell of the Federal Reserve pushed Congress last week for additional aid and leading economists like Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics noting that more stimulus than the Republican proposals provided was necessary for reinvigorating the economy.
The House proposal includes several critical nutrition provisions, which Speaker Pelosi has consistently maintained as a priority throughout the negotiations. The bill would increase SNAP benefits by 15%, includes $400 million in additional funding for WIC, and permits state agencies to increase the WIC Cash Value Benefit up to $35/month through January 31, 2021. The bill also includes a provision that requires USDA to issue recommendations on implementing online purchasing by September 2021.
Speaker Pelosi remains in communication with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to secure bipartisan support for a COVID relief deal. Neither the Administration nor Senate Republicans have yet indicated that they’d compromise and provide over $2 trillion in COVID relief. This proposal could be one of the last possible opportunities to advance COVID relief before the election. Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association, issued the following statement in response:
“Now is the time for the Administration to come to the negotiating table and allow for the long-delayed passage of COVID-19 relief for families and communities. Over the summer, child hunger has only grown as families continue to struggle to put enough food on the table. The economic and hunger consequences of COVID-19 are not going away, and the federal government needs to act.
“The HEROES Act thoughtfully addressed the wide-ranging needs of the American people, and this latest proposal continues to prioritize the most urgent investments. The continuing resolution making its way through Congress extended the structure for delivering nutrition assistance throughout COVID-19, but additional purchasing power for SNAP and WIC shoppers will stimulate the economy and directly address the hunger needs of families across the country. This latest proposal – and the necessary investments in SNAP and WIC – remains sorely and urgently needed.
“The proposal includes two bipartisan measures that highlight the partnership between WIC families and industry. The WIC Benefit Flexibility during COVID-19 Act, sponsored by Reps. Kim Schrier (D-WA) and Ron Wright (R-TX), provides a short-term increase to WIC fruit and vegetable purchases that will provide targeted relief for farmers and producers. The COVID-19 WIC Safety and Modernization Act, sponsored by Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY), will bring USDA to the table with WIC providers and retailers to identify steps to implement online purchasing in WIC, simplifying transactions and prioritizing the safety of WIC shoppers.
“Families, communities, and our industry partners have waited too long for aid that addresses the economic consequences of COVID-19. We urge the Administration and Senate Republicans to come to the negotiating table and deliver aid for the American people.”