Letter to The Hon. Sonny Perdue, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Congressman Cleaver Applauds Usda Reversal, Decision to Extend Nutrition Program Waivers for Kids Learning Remotely
Dear Secretary Perdue:
We are writing to express our disapproval of your decision not to extend all school meal waivers
through the 2020-2021 school year. We urge you to immediately reverse your decision and
extend all of the waivers using your authority under the Families First Coronavirus Response
At a moment when as many as 17 million children did not get enough to eat this
summer, this decision is not only based in an incorrect understanding of the law, but it is also
irresponsible and cruel.2
You wrote in your letter to us dated August 21, 2020 that extending these waivers would go
beyond the scope of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (Department) authority.3 This is not
correct. Congress provided the Department clear authority to issue all of these waivers under
The Department has already used its authority under FFCRA to extend other school
meal waivers for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year, including the non-congregate meal
service waiver, the meal pattern waiver, and the parent/guardian pickup waiver.
5 These actions
indicate that the Department agrees that these authorities under FFCRA can be applied during the
2019-2020 school year as long as the waiver is issued prior to the sunset date of September 30,
2020 prescribed in section 2202(e).
In your August 21, 2020, letter you also expressed concern about whether the Department has
budgetary authority to extend waivers. However, section 2102 of FFCRA, the Maintaining
Essential Access to Lunch for Students (MEALS) Act introduced by Rep. Omar, explicitly
provides the Department with the authority to issue waivers that increase costs to the federal
government, and the authority under this section does not sunset.
7 The Department already cited
budgetary authority from this section of FFCRA in its existing area eligibility waiver.8
As we discussed in our letter to you on August 7, 2020, your decision not to extend these waivers
will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for school meal programs to continue to operate
this fall, and for families to access nutritious meals for their children. Further, neglecting to
extend these waivers will exacerbate the already perilous financial situation school meal
programs are facing.
We therefore urge you to immediately reverse your decision to not extend all school meal
Please contact Maria Martirosyan at Maria.Martirosyan@mail.house.gov with any questions.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and we look forward to your response.