On the first day of the 2021-22 legislative session, Jan. 11, Assemblymen Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco) reintroduced a bill that would provide emergency food assistance to low-income Californians struggling financially due to COVID-19, regardless of legal status.
Assembly Bill 221 is co-sponsored by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the California Association of Food Banks and the Western Center on Law and Poverty and is co-authored by over a dozen Assembly members and Senators.
“It is unconscionable to leave people hungry in the middle of a pandemic,” Santiago said. “The need for food has skyrocketed since COVID-19 hit over nine months ago, and it won’t go down any time soon. Starvation shouldn’t be a consequence of this health crisis and that is why we are continuing last year’s efforts to provide emergency food assistance for low-income Californians.”
“No Californian, regardless of immigration status, should have to go without food,” Chiu added. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure California is supporting all of our residents and addressing hunger during this difficult time.”
“COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity in our state, and AB 221 will help get healthy, quality food to those who need it most,” Rivas said. “As the chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and vice-chair of the Latino Caucus, I am proud to co-author this legislation. By providing direct food assistance to those in need, including our undocumented residents, this legislation is essential to an equitable pandemic response and recovery.”
“We need to immediately help our working-class families, especially in our immigrant communities, who have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical that we provide direct assistance to them, many of whom are often risking their lives to provide us with essential services,” said co-author state Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park). “I look forward to working with my colleagues on legislation that will bring some relief to those who need it the most.”
While California administers CalFresh, a federally funded program that provides monthly food benefits to low-income individuals and families, COVID-19 has unexpectedly crippled California’s economy and overwhelmed state and federal social safety net programs. Now, millions of more Californians are in need of immediate food assistance. Last year’s AB 826 would have provided $600 of emergency food assistance to those in need, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. This year, with a stronger coalition of legislators, AB 221 would continue these efforts to ensure that low-income Californians, regardless of legal status, receive emergency food assistance to help put food on their tables.