On Tuesday afternoon, House Democrats introduced a fifth legislative package that would address the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act addresses a wide breadth of issues, including: additional aid for state and local governments, funding for testing and treatment, direct cash assistance for families, and a 15% increase in the maximum benefit levels for SNAP recipients. The House is expected to vote on the legislation later this week.
This legislation follows earlier efforts in March and April that invested trillions of dollars in public health spending, economic stimulus, and direct cash assistance to families. The earlier efforts included the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which passed on March 18 and created USDA waiver authority to adapt WIC services throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
The HEROES Act includes two provisions specific to WIC program administration. The bill includes an additional $1.1 billion in appropriated funding to ensure adequate resources to meet increased demand. The bill also includes short-term flexibilities for states to increase the value of WIC’s Cash Value Benefit for fruit and vegetable purchases, permitting state WIC agencies to increase the benefit up to $35/month through the end of September 2020. NWA worked closely with legislative staff to develop this provision to meet the needs of both WIC participants and produce growers.
Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association, issued the following statement in response:
"The HEROES Act wisely invests in sustained nutrition services for pregnant women and families with young children during a time of incredible uncertainty. Thousands of new families are already reaching out for WIC’s vital support, and the need will only grow in the coming months. We applaud Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her leadership in comprehensively addressing the pressing concerns of families across the country. We’d also like to thank Reps. Kim Schrier (D-WA) and Ron Wright (R-TX) for championing common-sense measures that would provide additional nutritious vegetable and fruit options for WIC shoppers while balancing the urgent needs of produce growers. The HEROES Act is a necessary step in providing for families throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and we urge swift passage of this critical legislation."