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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Republican Leader Glenn 'GT' Thompson Full Committee Hearing: A Look at Food Insecurity in America

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. First, let me thank our witnesses for their time and attention. Your participation—in what is this Committee’s first, or at least more fulsome, attempt at publicly reviewing the pandemic and Congress’ response—is much appreciated.

This pandemic has infiltrated our lives in every sense possible. Unfortunately, the brunt of it was borne on our communities, and in particular, families already living paycheck to paycheck. In too many instances, arrogant career politicians issued statewide, indiscriminate edicts, forcing businesses and schools to shut their doors, plummeting our communities into a deep recession. As the end of the pandemic nears, I hope we can use today to discuss what worked, what needs improvement, and ways to provide these families with more holistic services, particularly as they engage in a post-pandemic economy that will look wildly different.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, currently provides nutrition assistance to 43 million individuals, with an average individual benefit of $183. Total SNAP-related spending in FY 2020 was $78.9 billion, which includes benefits, administration, nutrition education, employment and training, and program integrity. Of that $78.9 billion, $74.2 billion was solely for benefits.

By way of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, more than $37.8 billion has been appropriated to respond to the supplemental nutrition assistance needs of our communities. This monumental response is in addition to the more than $7.7 billion per month in standard SNAP benefits. Beyond direct funding from Congress, the former and current Administrations have issued more than 4,000 administrative waivers to States; these waivers impact operations related to program eligibility, distribution of benefits, employment and training, and more.

These facts are startling. Combined with the myriad of other social service policies, including those found in the short-sighted, outrageously naïve American Rescue Plan, we are in the midst of our nation’s second largest expansion of entitlements. Unsurprisingly, leading economists and Wall Street analysts have said key parts of the bill are poorly targeted to the specific needs of the crisis. While my colleagues would like nothing more than for me to focus on their charade, I will leave that conversation for another hearing. 

Today, it is about the response. The witnesses before us are our everyday heroes. These are the folks who responded—without hesitation—to the needs of their communities infested by a pandemic that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of our friends, neighbors, and family members. Whether it be the farmer who chose to donate their crop, or the food bank who opened additional sites to be more accommodating, the witnesses before us —and every single person who helps keep these entities operational—deserve our thanks.

And while the Department is not represented in today’s hearing, I must give them my accolades as well, particularly the former Administration. Like it or lump it, the bulk of the response originated in the last Congress, under President Trump. Quick-thinking folks implemented Pandemic-EBT and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, two projects that remain remarkably beneficial to families in need.

The latter continues to fall victim to inconceivable criticism; there is always room for more solutions to the needs of our Nation. The Farmers to Families Food Box Program has open eligibility, making certain anyone and everyone in need, regardless of status, income, or household size, has supplementary access to nutritious foods that run the gamut from fruits and vegetables to meat and dairy. This program has provided more than 143 million boxes to households across the United States. And with this program, farmers were able to redirect their products and American workers were able to sustain their employment or join new ventures, all to ensure fresh foods found their way into the homes of millions. Regardless of the cherry-picked hiccups this Committee heard about over the summer, the program has worked exactly as intended.

With that, my thanks to the witnesses for their participation. And I trust that Chairman Scott will continue to host additional oversight hearings across all programs and constituencies germane to the pandemic response.

With that, I yield back.