Another $400 million will go to help the donation of dairy products for food distribution to help minimize food waste.
The bill also helps small meat and poultry processors by providing $60 million in grants to make improvements that would help those processors meet federal food safety inspection standards.
The bill also includes a 15% increase in Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for the next six months. That boost in SNAP benefits was a big driver for Democrats.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a hunger crisis that has touched every part of our nation. As many as 50 million Americans are not able to feed themselves and their families,” Stabenow said.
SNAP recipients would also receive a boost to purchase fruits and vegetables with $75 million set aside for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program.
The bill has several provisions for food banks and seniors, including $400 million in direct funding for food banks that includes up to 20% for distribution of commodities. Another $175 million will grow to help senior citizens through programs such as Meals on Wheels. Other provisions were added to make it easier for children to qualify for certain food-aid benefits as well, including emergency funds for schools and day cares facing higher costs and shifting ways to provide food to students learning virtually.
Other funds for agriculture will boost grants for specialty crop producers to respond to the disruptions they have faced during COVID-19. More funding would be set aside as well to help producers develop new markets such as farmer markets and address supply chain issues. The bill includes language to help underserved farmers and ranchers through $75 million for the Farming Opportunities Training Outreach program and include more support for minority, veteran, tribal and beginning farmers to access disaster programs.
The bill also includes $28 million in block grants to states to help farmer and rancher stress management due to the coronavirus.
With time being short, the U.S. Senate also likely will add on to a final funding bill for Congress a new reauthorization of the Water Resources Development. Act. The WRDA bill authorizes 46 new waterway projects nationally, ranging from port upgrades to improving locks, dams and flood gates, as well as 27 different feasibility studies for future projects.
President-elect Joe Biden said he is “heartened” to see Congress come together on the aid package, adding the bill would provide critical support for Americans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, as well as provide a lifeline to small businesses. Biden said the aid package “provides an important down payment” on vaccine purchases and distribution as well, suggesting “there will be light at the end of the tunnel.”
Biden added, however, that much more would be needed once he takes office.
“Immediately, starting in the new year, Congress will need to get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan, for support to struggling families, and investments in jobs and economic recovery. There will be no time to waste,” Biden stated. “But I am optimistic that we can meet this moment, together. My message to everyone out there struggling right now, help is on the way.”
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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