Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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Nashville mourns six dead in the latest mass shooting, the EPA takes public input on a proposal to clean up Pennsylvania's drinking water, and find ways to get more Zzz's during Sleep Awareness Month.

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A shooting leaves six dead at a school in Nashville, the White House commends Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to pause judicial reform, and mayors question the reach of state and federal authorities over local decisions.

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Finding childcare is a struggle everywhere, prompting North Carolina's Transylvania County to try a new approach. Maine is slowly building-out broadband access, but disagreements remain over whether local versus national companies should get the contracts, and specialty apps like "Farmers Dating" help those in small communities connect online.

WA Bill Provides Food Assistance in Face of Federal 'Cliff' to Aid

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Tuesday, February 14, 2023   

The pandemic-era boost to federal food aid is scheduled to end soon, but legislation in Olympia aims to help fill the gap in hunger relief. The emergency allotments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, increased food assistance during COVID-19 but will expire in March. House Bill 1784 in the Washington State Legislature would provide $28-million in food aid as soon April, if it passes.

Jake Garcia, public policy manager for Northwest Harvest said the end of emergency allotments will mean drastic cuts in aid for vulnerable populations.

"It's going to hurt folks who are seniors and people with disabilities the most, and so they'll actually go from receiving $218 a month to about $23 a month in basic food benefits," he said. "So, it's a cliff."

The bill in Olympia would allocate funds for hunger-relief organizations and programs for older Washingtonians and create incentives for fruit and vegetable purchases for low-income Washingtonians. It had a public hearing on Monday and is scheduled for an executive session on Thursday.

Mike Cohen, executive director of the Bellingham Food Bank, said people are in need, and that will increase once emergency allotments for SNAP end. He added when other pandemic benefit programs started winding down in 2022, the change was significant.

"We really saw a sharp spike in shopper visits to our food bank that we were not prepared for," Cohen said. "We thought we might get busier but we doubled our weekly number of visits and continue to hold that pace, and it's growing."

Garcia said Washingtonians are struggling with high food prices, too, and urged lawmakers to consider people's lived experiences with hunger, adding the local conversations about families are more dire than those happening in the Capitol.

"The conversations at dinner tables is, 'Hey, we don't have milk. We don't have eggs. We don't have the staples.' It's a radically different conversation, and I think that's something is getting lost on some of our legislators in Olympia," Garcia said.

Disclosure: Northwest Harvest contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues, Sustainable Agriculture. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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