CONGRESSMAN JOE MORELLE, SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND CALL FOR ACTION TO STREAMLINE CRITICAL SOCIAL SERVICES AMERICANS RELY ON

May 6, 2020
Press Release
Lawmakers push for next Coronavirus relief package to include their legislation, the HOPE Act, to break down barriers that prevent individuals from accessing the benefits and resources they need to get through COVID-19 crisis

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Congressman Joe Morelle (D-NY-25) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released a letter to Congressional leadership calling for the next COVID-19 relief legislation to take action to enable low-income individuals and families to more easily access the benefits and social services they rely on. Congressman Morelle and Senator Gillibrand’s legislation, the HOPE Act, 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 many more families are depending on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Low-income Individuals and families face significant barriers that too often hold them back from accessing the benefits they need and deserve,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “And especially now, as Americans are struggling to get through this public health crisis, it’s more important than ever that we take action to uplift the most vulnerable among us and empower families with the tools they need to succeed. With more and more families relying on government services, we must streamline this process and ensure no one is left behind.”

“As we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to ensure that low-income New Yorkers can access the critical benefits they need,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “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, so struggling families have the tools to seize economic opportunity. Modernizing our safety net programs is an urgent priority and I’m proud to lead the HOPE Act in the Senate.”

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 mid-March, more than 26 million people have applied for unemployment benefits, and of these, millions 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.

The HOPE Act, sponsored by Morelle and 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.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide direct service and advocacy organizations said, “We have long championed the idea 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. Given the massive backlog that many states and counties are now facing in processing unemployment and food benefits due to this crisis, these improvements are needed more urgently than ever. 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.”

Chef, TV host, and food activist Tom Colicchio, co-founder of the nonprofit anti-hunger group A Place at the Table, said, “This 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 full letter calling for the HOPE Act to be included in future coronavirus relief legislation is below.

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2020.05.06 C4_COVID-19_HOPE... by Rep. Joe Morelle on Scribd