Today, Congress completed its work on a new COVID-19 relief package when the House approved Senate action on President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The bill will now be sent to the President for his signature. This legislation builds on previous COVID related bills including the CARES Act which passed in March 2020 and December’s COVID relief bill which provided key resources and programs to the fresh produce industry that help ensure that all Americans can have access to sufficient, healthy fresh produce and strengthen the foundation of the produce industry supply chain. Of particular note, the legislation includes:
- Increases fruit and vegetable benefits in the WIC food package to $35 per month for four months. This increase should be the first step in permanently raising the WIC produce benefit levels as recommended by the Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.
- Boosts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments by 15% and provides Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer payments (P-EBT) to school-age children to replace meals they would be getting at school and through the summer.
- Provides $4 billion for food and agriculture supply chain in the form of purchasing and distributing commodities – specifically fresh fruits and vegetables – along with providing grants and loans to the agriculture supply chain to respond to COVID-19 and make loans and grants to help improve the food and agriculture supply chain resiliency.
- The bill also contains the Restaurant Recovery Act which includes $25 billion in grant funding for restaurants to use for past expenses including account receivable debts, along with re-opening cost.
In a statement after the House passage, United Fresh’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Robert Guenther made the following observation:
Again, we are seeing Congress and the Administration step up and provide our nation with critical resources to address COVID-19 challenges that have been ongoing over the last year. Not only is it important that the fresh produce industry is recognized again in this legislation, but it underscores that additional resources are still needed to ensure that the produce industry comes out of this pandemic stronger and more vibrant. In addition, this bill includes important resources that will help our nation’s frontline workers, including those farmworkers who are critical in our industry with vaccine access. United Fresh applauds those Members of Congress who supported this legislation and look forward to President Biden signing this into law.