USDA Expands Nutrition Assistance for Seniors Amid Pandemic with American Rescue Plan Funding

US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is increasing food assistance to low-income seniors – a population that has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic – by providing nearly $37 million in additional support to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). States and Tribal nations will receive the new funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act to serve additional seniors, in addition to up to $2.6 million in administrative funds from a previous COVID relief bill.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the hunger crisis in America, but help is on the way,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By expanding the reach of CSFP and providing additional support to the states and tribes that administer the program, USDA is helping ensure that no senior has to worry where their next meal will come from.”

The American Rescue Plan funding allows USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to expand the reach of CSFP by fulfilling all 2021 requests from states to serve more seniors and adding the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes to the program. FNS will also make up to $2.6 million from the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 available for states and Tribal nations to support increased administrative costs resulting from the pandemic.

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In addition, FNS is ensuring those who rely on CSFP don’t unintentionally lose access to their benefits due to the financial relief they receive through ARP. FNS is providing guidance to states and Tribal nations to exclude stimulus funds and child tax credits provided by the ARP from income when determining eligibility for CSFP. The same exclusion applies across the other federal nutrition assistance programs including SNAP, WIC, child nutrition programs, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

CSFP provides nutritious, domestically-sourced USDA Foods to low-income persons 60 years or older. This expansion, along with similar actions in other nutrition programs including SNAP that serve this population, will help combat food insecurity among seniors during the pandemic. For more information about how FNS programs are working together to provide a nationwide security net to support those experiencing food insecurity during COVID-19visit their website.

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The announcement comes in addition to a variety of actions taken recently by USDA to strengthen food security, drive down hunger, and put a greater emphasis on the importance of nutrition. Just recently, USDA maximized economic relief for struggling families by taking administrative action on SNAP emergency allotments by targeting an additional $1 billion per month to roughly 25 million people. The Biden-Harris Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act provides over $12 billion in new nutrition assistance to address hardship caused by the pandemic, including:

  • Extending a 15% increase in SNAP benefits — providing over $1.1 billion per month in additional benefits for about 41 million participants—through September 2021;
  • Adding $1.1 billion in new funding for territories that operate nutrition assistance block grants — home to nearly 3 million Americans—to support those hard-hit by the pandemic;
  • Extending and expanding P-EBT — a program that served over 8.4 million families with children at its peak last year — through the duration of the public health emergency;
  • Funding meals for young adults experiencing homelessness through Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) emergency shelters;
  • Providing nearly $900 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), including a temporary increase in fruit and vegetable vouchers to $35 per month and an historic investment in innovation and outreach to better serve more than 6.2 million people that use WIC to support a healthy start for infants and young children.
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