April 29, 2020

Warren, Hirono, Harris, Murphy to USDA: College Students Need Access to SNAP During Pandemic

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately reconsider its blanket denial of waiver requests and allow college students continued access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits if they have become unemployed due to the pandemic. 

In their letter, the senators noted that many college students were already food insecure before the pandemic, and that the widespread closures of colleges have further disrupted the support systems students might need. Citing the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia requested waivers to permit students to receive SNAP benefits even if they lose their employment due to COVID-19.

"It is important to continue to ensure that the needs of vulnerable populations, including college students, do not go unaddressed in this time of extreme and unpredictable economic conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of weaknesses at various points in our food supply chain, and we should be responding by taking actions that increase access to food security for those who are currently, or are on the verge of being, food insecure," the senators wrote.

The senators continued, "We request USDA immediately reconsider the sweeping denial of waiver requests seeking the temporary waiving of the work requirement imposed on college students and allow students who lose their employment to continue to receive SNAP benefits for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Senator Warren also released the following statement: "No student should have to decide whether they will eat that day or go hungry while they work hard towards a better future. As the coronavirus pandemic causes an historic economic crisis, we need to ensure that every eligible student can get the SNAP benefits they need, even if they have lost their job." 

Elizabeth Warren has been a champion for students. 

  • Senator Warren highlighted the issue of food insecurity on college campuses, releasing a GAO report -- which she requested with Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Debbie Stabenow's (D-Mich.) -- in January 2019 that showed college students around the country are struggling to afford food and basic nutrition. The report is the first time a federal government agency has confirmed that food insecurity among college students is a widespread issue and recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) take steps to help enroll potentially-eligible students in SNAP benefits.
  • She then introduced the College Student Hunger Act of 2019, legislation to address food insecurity on college campuses by enabling more low-income college students to access SNAP, and pushing the federal government, states, and colleges and universities to take a more proactive role in addressing student food insecurity.