With thousands of restaurants facing a possibly fatal slowdown in business and millions of newly jobless Americans in desperate need of food, Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that aims to address both problems at once.
The legislation from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) proposes to expand the Restaurant Meals Program, which allows some people who receive food assistance to purchase discounted meals at restaurants. The program is voluntary for states, with only California, Arizona and Rhode Island currently participating, and can be used only by elderly, disabled and homeless people who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s primary source of food aid, often referred to as food stamps.
The SNAP Covid-19 Anti-Hunger Restaurant Relief for You Act of 2020, or the SNAP Carry Act, would allow states to expand the meals program in the event of a public health emergency or natural disaster so that all SNAP beneficiaries can participate. That would theoretically allow all 38 million current SNAP beneficiaries to expand their sources of food while providing restaurants with much needed revenues.
The National Restaurant Association supports the bill.