The Give SNAP a Raise Act proposed by the District’s At-large Councilmember Christina Henderson and funded by Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George’s budget amendment received unanimous council approval last spring. Despite resistance from Mayor Muriel Bowser, increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments will begin on Feb. 23 and provide retroactive benefits for January.
According to Lewis George, this legislation will greatly benefit families across the nation’s capital. Lewis George’s budget amendment allocated excess revenue from the fiscal year to programs supporting families in Washington, D.C.
D.C. residents will receive an almost $40 million increase in SNAP benefits and $20 million in relief for excluded workers, which include undocumented immigrants and cash economy workers who are excluded from local and federal support programs.
“Each recipient will receive a 10 percent local enhancement to their federal maximum SNAP allotment. On average, each recipient will receive $47 more per month in food assistance, but many families will receive significantly more depending on their family size and income level,” Lewis George told The Hilltop.
Bowser did not initially agree to use the $39.6 million fiscal year budget surplus for the SNAP increase, despite her legal obligation. Her administration cited various budget pressures, including $800 million for union contracts, WMATA and other expenses as their justification for noncompliance.
Her decision to withhold SNAP food assistance was met with immediate pushback from the D.C. Council, who penned a letter accusing Bowser’s administration of “chronically underfunded public benefit enrollment and allotments” and declining to implement the increase due to spending pressures they created and anticipated.
D.C. Attorney General, Brian Schwalb, found that Bowser could not divert SNAP funds or refuse to implement the law. It was not until Legal Aid DC informed Bowser of their intent to file a lawsuit that she finally complied with the legislation, as reported by NBC Washington.
Lewis George told The Hilltop she remains committed to fighting food insecurity in Washington, D.C., despite growing efforts from Congress to reduce food assistance.
“We already knew that working families in our city were struggling, but the situation became even more dire when Congress let expanded SNAP benefits expire as food prices were skyrocketing due to inflation,” Lewis George said.
Following these actions of Congress, Lewis George explained that her office began hearing from families who regularly ran out of food only halfway through the month. She emphasized how the reduction in SNAP benefits affected seniors that largely depended on assistance, but “had their benefits slashed down to double-digits and even single-digits in one case.”
“In a city as wealthy as D.C., no one should go hungry. So, I made it a priority to secure the funding for this legislation and expand food assistance for every D.C. resident who needs it,” Lewis George said.
Nahree Mosley is a senior psychology major and sociology minor from Philadelphia, who expressed her support for increased SNAP benefits, as well as concerns about exclusion in food assistance within the city.
“As a college student, I was encouraged to apply for SNAP benefits. When I did apply, it was difficult to get them,” Mosley said, recounting the challenges she faced as a Howard student seeking food assistance.
“It is amazing that [local government] is increasing SNAP benefits. However, local officials should also focus on making SNAP more easily accessible,” Mosley added.
With over 130,000 SNAP recipients across the District needing increased food assistance, Lewis George said “this SNAP expansion will benefit all of them.”
Copy edited by Jasper Smith