April 6, 2021
Press Release
Morelle reintroduces HOPE Act to break down barriers that prevent individuals from accessing the benefits and resources they need, especially during COVID-19 crisis

April 6, 2021 (Rochester, NY) – Today, Congressman Joe Morelle reintroduced and reiterated the need for comprehensive legislation to help low-income individuals and families more easily access the benefits and social services they rely on. The HOPE Act, which Rep. Morelle sponsors in partnership with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, would help modernize and streamline how eligible recipients access services in order to reduce food insecurity, increase access to affordable housing, expand access to banking services, and more—services that families have been increasingly dependent on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every day, families rely on government programs to help put food on the table and meet basic needs—and these services have been in even greater demand during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congressman Morelle. “Unfortunately, there are significant barriers that too often hold individuals back from accessing the benefits they need and deserve. My legislation, the HOPE Act, will help empower Americans with the tools to succeed and ensure no one is left behind.”

“The federal government has a responsibility to make anti-poverty, health care, nutrition, housing, and work support programs accessible to as many people as possible, especially at this critical time of recovery,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Throughout the course of the pandemic, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and are struggling to support their families — we must ensure they can access critical resources to help make ends meet. The HOPE Act would remove barriers for low-income and underserved Americans to access government services, and streamline our safety net programs, so that they can quickly access the benefits they need. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation with Congressman Morelle and I will continue to prioritize support for New Yorkers in need.”

Chef, TV host, and food activist Tom Colicchio, co-founder of the nonprofit anti-hunger group A Place at the Table, said: “Recent steps by the Biden Administration and Congress to fight hunger and to start to get the economy back on track are good first steps, but much more still needs to be done. The HOPE bill is a giant leap forward in anti-hunger and anti-poverty work. If it becomes law, and then is implemented effectively by the federal government, it will enable countless struggling families to obtain more help with less hassle.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, through no fault of their own—forcing them to rely on government support programs to feed their family and afford their rent. As these families apply for a myriad of nutrition, housing, healthcare, job training, and unemployment assistance programs, we have clearly seen the administrative burdens that act as a barrier to accessing these critical benefits.

Since March 2020, more than 82 million people have applied for unemployment benefits, many of whom have faced unreasonably long wait times, misinformation regarding eligibility, dropped calls, and even the inability to start the application process. SNAP applications have also skyrocketed, and many states and counties are now struggling with significant backlogs. These are programs that Americans need most, and yet many are being delayed weeks or even turned away.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide direct service and advocacy organizations said, “Given that the newly-enacted recovery act authorizes additional, live-saving hunger and poverty assistance, it’s particularly urgent for advance the idea, which Hunger Free America has long championed, of making it easier for low-income people to apply online for a wide variety of benefits, and enable them to voluntarily agree with government and nonprofit agencies on plans to increase their long-term economic opportunity. We are very grateful that Congressman Morelle and Senator Gillibrand are taking the lead in turning this idea into reality. HOPE accounts and actions plans have the potential to dramatically improve and modernize safety net programs both during the crisis and beyond - thereby both reducing poverty in America and ensuring more program efficiency for taxpayers. This effort is also perfectly in-line with the Biden Administration’s push to upgrade the nation’s digital infrastructure.” 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the hunger and poverty crises in America, and forced communities from coast-to-coast to acknowledge the burdensome red tape families must cut through just to get the help they need. The HOPE Act is a commonsense bill that will help streamline these critical assistance programs, and will be a gamechanger for so many Americans who are struggling to get by right now. The Progressive Policy Institute applauds Rep. Morelle and Sen. Gillibrand for their leadership on the HOPE Act, and thanks them for their tireless work supporting families during this pandemic,” said Veronica Goodman, Director of Social Policy at the Progressive Policy Institute. 

The HOPE Act, sponsored by Congressman Morelle and Senator Gillibrand, would provide meaningful change to how we approach, apply for, and distribute benefits to eligible Americans, during a time when they are needed the most. More information on the legislation, which has received widespread support, is available here.