Around 2.2 million New Yorkers are struggling with food insecurity right now as a result of the pandemic.
Lawmakers are now looking at ways to fix breaks in the food supply chain and bolster food assistance programs.
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi says these fixes have to look at the long term.
"We treat this uptick in food insecurity in New York as a peak due to COVID, and it is, but I’m afraid of putting another Band-Aid on it like we have,” Hevesi said.
During a legislative hearing, the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Michael Hein said the number of people who received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in the first four months of the pandemic increased by 9.3 percent.
The good news is eligible adults can continue to maximize their SNAP benefits, as long as there is a state of emergency in place.
However, the P-EBT program that provides food assistance to children who would normally receive free school lunch, is about to expire.
“P-EBT can continue only through September,” Commissioner Hein explained. That’s where we’re at, at this point. We expect beyond that it will take an action of Congress signed by the president.”
Hein, like many administration officials right now, is still holding out hope that federal dollars will arrive soon to help counter the state’s budget deficit that is restricting cash flow to state funded programs.
But the question that still has to be asked?
“If we do not see federal funding, is there a Plan B?” Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon questioned.
"What you’re seeing here is everyone trying to do more with less,” Hein responded. “That’s what’s happening right now and it’s putting huge pressure on the system no doubt about that.”
“We are in one of the most, if not the most, financially challenging times in our state. The ability for us to move forward and fund many of these programs… will be contingent upon additional funding flowing from the federal government,” said Hein.
Around 2.3 million children will have received food assistance from the P-EBT program since March.