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Hochul signs legislation helping homeless, disabled & elderly SNAP recipients to purchase prepared meals


Tue, Oct 5th 2021 05:30 pm

Legislation (S.64/A.1524) creates statewide restaurant meals program; mandates OTDA to apply for USDA approval so SNAP recipients can purchase prepared foods

√ Once approved by USDA, would help SNAP recipients to use their benefits for prepared or hot food at participating restaurants and delis

√ Launches $25 million restaurant resiliency program, building on successful Nourish New York initiative, to provide a boost to struggling restaurants while feeding families in need

√ Restaurants can apply here for resiliency program

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday signed legislation (S.64/A.1524) establishing a statewide restaurant meals program as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The legislation mandates the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to apply for USDA approval to authorize the program, which would allow homeless, elderly and disabled SNAP recipients to use their benefits for prepared or hot food from participating restaurants. Hochul signed this legislation at the Brownsville Recreation Center in Brooklyn.

The governor also announced the launch of the $25 million restaurant resiliency program to provide relief to the restaurant industry, which continues to face severe challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, proposed by the Legislature, will build on the successful Nourish New York initiative. It will provide funding to New York's network of food banks and emergency food providers to purchase prepared meals from New York restaurants and deliver them to families in need.

"It's unconscionable that, in a state as prosperous as New York, many residents still struggle to get enough food to feed their families," Hochul said. "The vital actions we're taking – establishing two restaurant programs to help the most vulnerable New Yorkers feed themselves and help restaurants recover from this terrible pandemic – will work in tandem to put food on the table in homes across the state. This pandemic continues to impact the wallets and homes of a vast number of New Yorkers, and we're taking any and all actions to help them support themselves and their loved ones."

Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin said, "The actions Gov. Hochul are taking today make it clear to families and restaurants recovering from COVID that New York state is here for them. Expanding SNAP benefit eligibility to prepared or hot foods at participating restaurants will help feed New York families in need while providing a needed boost to struggling local businesses. Along with the $25 million restaurant resiliency program being launched, which I advocated for in the Senate, this will go a long way to furthering our recovery toward a more equitable New York."

The statewide restaurant meals program, once approved by USDA, would allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits for prepared or hot food from participating restaurants and delis at reduced prices.

Prior to the signing of this legislation, SNAP recipients in New York could not use their benefits to purchase prepared goods. Hochul’s team said, “This prevented many populations that do not have access to cooking or food preparation on their own from using SNAP benefits. This primarily affects the homeless, disabled and elderly populations.”

The restaurant resiliency program will award funding, which was passed as part of the 2021-22 budget, from the New York State Department of Health to New York's network of 10 food banks. The list of food banks and their award amounts can be found here. The Food Bank of Western New York will receive more than $2.1 million.

Emergency food providers will work directly with restaurants deemed eligible for the program by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. They will need to show capacity to create meals aligning with MyPlate.gov standards, be up to date with licensing requirements, and have passed all health inspections. Participating restaurants are encouraged to use New York ingredients where possible. Additional information and an application for the program can be found here.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "The Nourish New York program has been a resounding success in its ability to address the needs of families who have found themselves in need of food assistance during the pandemic and to provide relief to our farmers who are struggling with the loss of key markets. By using the Nourish New York as a model to now help our restaurants, we will be able to reach even more New Yorkers and provide a steady customer base for our restaurants to help them get through these continued challenging times."

Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said, "At NYC DSS, we have implemented a range of reforms that have made it easier for New Yorkers to access the resources and benefits they need, when they need them, including via online/mobile application. We wholeheartedly support the state's effort to expand the social safety net by adding more options and increasing accessibility – and we look forward to implementing this progressive change, which will provide our clients with greater choice and flexibility, while supporting our city's hardworking small businesses."

NYS Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said, "The aftermath of COVID-19 has left many New Yorkers in tough financial positions, unsure of where their next meal is coming from. But the pandemic has taught us that, by working together, New Yorkers can accomplish great things. The restaurant resiliency program is a creative way to use that same cooperation to align the needs of food insecure New Yorkers and the amazing individuals in the still struggling New York restaurant industry move forward together. Thank you, Gov. Hochul, Commissioner Ball, Assemblyman Rodriguez, and our legislative leaders for coming up with this program and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that this is effectively implemented to benefit New Yorkers and our restaurant industry."

Feeding New York State Executive Director Dan Egan said, "The Nourish New York program continues to support the three million New Yorkers who need food assistance as well as New York's food industry. With this announcement, Nourish NY expands to embrace the restaurant sector, which is uniquely placed to provide very high-quality prepared meals to our neighbors in need. We applaud Gov. Hochul's leadership here, and look forward to expanding our great teamwork with the Department of Agriculture and Markets."

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