(Sacramento, CA) – On the first day of the 2021-22 legislative session, Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Assembly Member Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), Assembly Member David Chiu (D-San Francisco), and Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) reintroduced a bill that would provide emergency food assistance to low-income Californians struggling financially due to COVID-19, regardless of legal status. AB 221 is co-sponsored by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) and the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP) and is co-authored by over a dozen Assemblymembers and Senators.
“It is unconscionable to leave people hungry in the middle of a pandemic,” said Assembly Member Miguel Santiago. “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," said joint author Assembly Member David Chiu. "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,” said joint author Assembly Member Robert Rivas. “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 principal co-author Senator Susan Rubio. "I look forward to working with my colleagues on legislation that will bring some relief to those who need it the most."
"California’s rate of COVID 19 infection has reached more than 2.5 million cases and the loss of lives is close to 30,000,” said Joseph Villela, Director of Policy and Advocacy for CHIRLA. “Adding to the human cost, financial stress and food insecurity have become more acute among the most vulnerable. We are proud to be a partner in moving AB 221 forward to provide immediate relief to families and workers experiencing food insecurity."
“Western Center is proud to co-sponsor AB 221 alongside CHIRLA, the California Food Bank Association, and Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago, Robert Rivas and David Chiu to immediately provide emergency food assistance to people who need it most. In the time since a similar bill was vetoed last year, hunger in California got worse, but state revenue was unexpectedly better,” said Western Center policy advocate Christopher Sanchez. “This is where the rubber meets the road - if we as a wealthy, progressive state don’t ensure that our people have enough to eat, we will create even more instability than the pandemic and existing economic inequality has already produced.”
“As the pandemic and its economic consequences have deepened, particularly for low-income communities of color, the need for emergency food assistance available to all has grown more dire,” said Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Relations for CAFB. “Nearly 1 in 4 Californians are experiencing hunger, and more than a third of Black and Latinx households with children are hungry. COVID-19 rates are rising, unemployment remains high, and federal relief excludes many immigrant Californians who are doing essential work. We are proud to continue to sponsor this bill, supporting the leadership of Assembly Member Santiago and CHIRLA, which will provide desperately needed relief.”
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. 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.
Assembly Member Miguel Santiago is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance Committee and the Assembly Select Committee on Los Angeles County Homelessness. He also sits on the Assembly Committees on Health, Public Safety, Higher Education and Utilities and Energy. He represents the 53rd District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Vernon.