Going out to buy food terrifies Yvonne Knight, a 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, but she is one of millions of people who receive food aid through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that can't be used in flexible ways. "Every time I go out, I put myself at risk—and other people," said Knight, who lives in Erie, Pa. "I’m so terrified when people come up to me now. I don’t want to go out to the store.” Buying groceries online—which many Americans are doing to drastically reduce how often they leave their homes— is only open to SNAP recipients in six US states, and Pennsylvania is not one of them. Now, state governments and food security activists across the country are imploring the US Department of Agriculture to make the program more flexible and easier to access at a time when so many people are losing jobs and turning to the government for support.
The calls have even come from conservative states where lawmakers have tried to reduce or limit food aid, the AP reports. In Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has asked the agency to waive interview requirements for applicants, allow families to purchase hot meals, waive work requirements for some, and enact other changes that would help families deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue now says he's undecided and notes that the congressional virus relief package contains a blanket waiver on the work requirement—though the agency seems likely to revisit the issue in calmer times. For now, with large parts of the economy shuttered, state governments are clamoring to expand the recipient ranks and cut the red tape.
(Read more food stamps