TOPEKA, Kan. — For many Kansans, the coronavirus pandemic is causing a major financial strain, making it difficult to pay rent or put food on the table. But in the midst of the pandemic, there is a push for Governor Kelly to expand food assistance benefits, and hundreds of Kansans have signed on to show their support.
Kansas advocacy organization Kansas Appleseed created a petition urging Governor Kelly to expand the food assistance benefits called ‘SNAP’. The expansion would include:
- The Restaurant Meal Program allows elderly, disabled, and homeless individuals to purchase prepared meals from participating restaurants. This program currently operates in Arizona, Rhode Island, Illinois, and California. States and advocates are requesting the USDA expand this program to new states.
- The Hot Prepared Food Waiver allows the purchase of more ready-to-eat food items during disasters. Many governors have asked USDA for the flexibility a Declaration of Individual Assistance and Disaster-SNAP would offer.
- The Elderly Simplified Application Project would increase participation among eligible seniors by streamlining the application and certification process. States like Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina have already implemented different aspects of the project.
Cathryn Adams knows the challenges of feeding a family of eight while being disabled, as well as having two disabled children. Due to the pandemic, the state is giving SNAP recipients the full amount of their benefits. Cathryn doesn’t know how long it will last, though.
“We barely get any in SNAP on a normal basis,” she said. “Anytime that my fiance works a little bit more, then we have to turn that in and then we get nothing.”
The proposed program expansion would include benefits for disabled people like Cathryn and her family, including allowing restaurant meals to be purchased.
“I go back and forth to Topeka for treatment and stuff and so, you know, when we’re on the road, it would be nice to be able to stop somewhere and get something,” said Cathryn.
Jami Reever, Executive Director of Kansas Appleseed, explained that this change would not only benefit SNAP recipients.
“This program would support local restaurants who seem to be struggling right now,” said Reever.
Cathryn added the difficulty she has buying the certain foods allowed under SNAP and within her budget right now.
“They’ve got limits on, like your canned vegetables, you know, you can’t get more than 4 cans,” explained Cathryn. “And of course the prices are going up…it just makes it really hard because you’re trying to budget this amount to go towards feeding you and it’s hard when you don’t know what the price is going to be.”
More than 600 Kansans and Kansas organizations signed the petition in support of the expansion. Reever hand-delivered the letter and signatures to the Governor’s office on Monday. She added that other states have already implemented similar programs.
“We know that it’s possible and we know that the USDA has been incredibly flexible in approving these waivers,” Reever said. “So, we think that if the Governor asks for these waivers and for these new programs, we’d most likely get them in Kansas.”
The petition also originally asked the Governor to allow SNAP benefits be used for online grocery shopping. Last week, the USDA and Governor Kelly approved this test program.