Press Release

Sen. Welch Calls to Protect Critical Nutrition Assistance Programs, Helps Introduce Legislation Boosting SNAP Benefits

Apr 19, 2023

WASHINGTON – Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) today joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-07) for a press conference marking the introduction of the Closing the Meal Gap Act, legislation that would boost support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the more than 40 million Americans and 70,000 Vermonters who rely on SNAP. The bill, led by Sen. Gillibrand and Representative Alma Adams (D-NC) would boost SNAP funding by 30%, expanding access to healthy nutritious foods for working families. The lawmakers were joined by representatives from Hunger Free America Blue Star Families and MAZON, among other advocacy groups. 

 “More than 70,000 Vermont families rely on SNAP benefits to put food on the table—but even with that support, far too many people are still struggling to make ends meet,” said Senator Welch. “The Closing the Meal Gap Act will cut through red tape that stops families from getting the help they need. I am proud to join Sen. Gillibrand, Rep. Adams, and others to support this important legislation and help Vermonters thrive.”  

“We live in the richest nation in the world, and more than 40 million Americans still depend on food assistance. I am proud to lead my Democratic colleagues in introducing the Closing the Meal Gap Act, a bill that enhances SNAP benefits and puts food on the table for those who need it most,” said Senator Gillibrand.  “Despite this, Republicans in Congress are willing to slash federal spending for this life-saving program and play politics with people’s lives. No one in the United States should go hungry, and I will never turn my back on the more than 40 million Americans, including 15 million children, who depend on SNAP.”  

“I was proud to work with Senator Gillibrand and the rest of my colleagues to include provisions to expand SNAP to the people of Puerto Rico. Currently, Puerto Rico relies on the Nutrition Assistance Program, a capped block grant that does not fluctuate to meet the needs of Puerto Ricans in the wake of disasters like Hurricane María or the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “This bill would facilitate a speedy and long overdue transition to SNAP for Puerto Rico and help ensure the Island has the tools it needs to combat food insecurity.” 

The Closing the Meal Gap Act would:  

Increase the baseline for SNAP benefits by incorporating the Low-Cost Food Plan into the SNAP formula, which would more accurately estimate how much working people spend on food. 

Eliminate eligibility limits & unrealistic barriers by:  

Authorizing the standard medical deduction in every state permanently for seniors and disabled individuals applying for SNAP benefits at a minimum of $140. Individuals with high expenses could continue to apply for a higher, itemized medical deduction. 

Eliminating the cap on the Excess Shelter Deduction in the SNAP formula to account for the cost of living for SNAP recipients in areas with high rent and utilities. 

Eliminating time limits on benefits for Americans struggling to find work.

Expand benefits for and end discrimination against those who live and work in Puerto Rico by offering SNAP benefits as offered in the continental U.S.  

Earlier today, Sen. Welch also joined a meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Food & Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics & Research to discuss the importance of supporting SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs in the upcoming Farm Bill. As a longtime advocate for expanded access to healthy, nutritious foods and chair of the Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, Sen. Welch is committed to expanding support for SNAP and helping every family put food on the table. He will continue to advocate for nutrition assistance programs and support for working families in this year’s Farm Bill.