As Congress debates a new coronavirus stimulus bill, more people in Utah are facing food insecurity as the economy struggles with the effects of the pandemic. Groups that offer social services say some families who were previously able to provide healthy meals will see a double whammy at the end of this week.
The end of this week is when enhanced federal unemployment assistance is set to expire, which will likely leave many households unable to pay rent. Gina Cornia with Utahns Against Hunger said the number of families needing food assistance has already grown rapidly.
"In February, our food security was about 8.2% – fewer than one in 10 Utah households were experiencing food insecurity. Between April and June, that jumped up to 17.4%," Corina said.
She said demand for SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, has remained steady since March, although food banks and similar charities have reported a spike in demand. But she is worried that could soon get worse.
Cornia added that during the pandemic, food insecurity among Utah’s Black and Latino children has increased to more than 30%.
"Not only are communities of color in Utah being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, but they're also bearing a disproportionate amount of food insecurity," she said.
Deborah Weinstein with the nonprofit Coalition on Human Needs said Congress needs to act quickly before federal unemployment benefits and the eviction moratorium both run out.
"We have not experienced anything like this for a hundred years," Weinstein said. "We've got a stubborn disease that is keeping our economy from functioning the way it should. We cannot let our families suffer in this way. The consequences to children are so grave."
Weinstein also called for an additional one-trillion dollars in aid to state and local governments to avoid funding cuts to critical health, education and social service programs.