Cars line-up for free food from the Arkansas Foodbank at the Outlets of Little Rock on Tuesday, April 28.
Food bank demand skyrockets as supplies dwindle
02:59 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear on Thursday that she wants to see an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits as Democrats look to provide further relief amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The food banks are overwhelmed, and we have to have a significant increase in SNAP,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference while discussing Democratic priorities for future aid legislation to respond to the Covid 19 outbreak and its economic fallout.

“In addition to putting money in people’s pockets, direct payments, unemployment insurance, some other tax credits, etc, we really also need to put food on the table,” Pelosi said.

The comments come as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle outline what they hope to see in a future relief bill as the United States grapples with the devastating impact of the pandemic, which has taken a steep toll on public health and safety, as well as the American economy.

Pelosi said that she is not actively negotiating with the Trump administration for another round of coronavirus relief, even as Democrats are working to finalize an ambitious package with hundreds of billions of dollars for states and local governments.

Democrats would need Republican agreement to advance legislation through the GOP-held Senate and to the President’s desk. The previous relief bills were passed after bipartisan negotiations.

“I would hope that they would see the need” for another package, Pelosi said of Republicans during her weekly press conference.

Asked if she is concerned about the national debt as Congress responds to the crisis, Pelosi said she believes in offsetting legislation with tax revenue – but cautioned that debt should not be a justification for shortchanging increasing nutrition assistance benefits.

“Yes, I’m concerned about the national debt,” she said, “but I think it would be penny foolish to say, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t do SNAP to give you food because there’s a national debt.’”

Instead, Pelosi argued that bolstering benefits, such as for nutrition assistance, can help stimulate the economy at a time when it has been hard hit.

“What we’re talking about now is about a stimulus to our economy at a time where people are crippled with concern about their physical well being as well as their economic well being,” she said. “When we talk about food stamps and direct payments and unemployment insurance, they stimulate the economy. Their purpose is to meet the needs of people, but they are a stimulus to the economy.”