Letter to Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker; Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader; Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader; and Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader - Congressman Panetta Leads Call for Stronger Funding for National Guard to Support Food Banks During COVID-19
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Leader Schumer,
We write to request increased funding for the National Guard in any future relief package to ensure that our Service Members can continue supporting food banks through the duration of this emergency. Since the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the National Guard has become a lifeline to food banks across the country, helping package and distribute food to meet unprecedented levels of need. Such federal funding will help ensure that our food banks continue to provide those in our communities with a reliable source of food.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in eight American households struggled to put food on the table. With unemployment currently at a record high as a result of the pandemic, the incidence of food hardship is increasing at a staggering rate. Around 95 percent of the food banks in the Feeding America network have reported a 70 percent increase in demand since the pandemic began. At the same time, food banks are dealing with temporary shortages in several food products and a steep decline in willing and able volunteers.
Thankfully, both state and federal governments have taken steps to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our food insecure communities. On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a nationwide emergency pursuant to Section 501(b) of the Stafford Act. With this declaration, the President authorized governors in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to activate components of their Army and Air National Guard to assist food banks with packaging and distributing food. While Service Members operate under the direction of governors, the federal government can cover the full cost of eligible activities.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020, included $1.4 billion to support the National Guard's response to COVID-19, including the National Guard's efforts to support food banks. This level of funding can sustain up to 20,000 members of the National Guard, under the direction of the governors of each state. Unfortunately, given the fast-moving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, these funds could be depleted by the end of this month.
As we work together to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we respectfully request that you include sufficient funding for the National Guard in any future relief package. Such funding during this national emergency will help ensure that our nation's food banks remain fully operational so that our communities can remain food secure.