The federal Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) — known as CalFresh in California — is one of the nation’s most powerful antipoverty programs, helping millions of people buy the food they need to support their families and households. Even with a strong economy in 2019, CalFresh provided food assistance to nearly 1 in 10 Californians. Program participation varied across the state’s 53 Congressional districts, but was especially high in the 8th District (R-Cook), 16th District (D-Costa), and 21st District (D-Cox) (see Map 1). CalFresh enrollment will increase dramatically in the coming weeks and months as many across the state lose jobs and income due to the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis.
SNAP is also one of the federal government’s most effective tools in boosting the economy when participants purchase food in their communities. While recent federal legislation responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by enacting temporary provisions in the SNAP program to streamline administration, maintain participation, and provide emergency benefits, more needs to be done. Federal policymakers should take additional actions to help households put food on the table and to boost the economy. Until the public health emergency is over and the economy improves, policymakers should increase SNAP’s maximum benefit and minimum monthly benefit and halt any administrative actions that would limit SNAP food assistance.