(Sacramento, CA) – AB 221 “Emergency Food Assistance for All”, joint-authored by Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) David Chiu (D-San Francisco), and Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and principal co-authored by Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) has passed out of the Assembly Human Services Committee on a 7-0 vote. This bill would provide $600 of emergency food assistance to low-income Californians (regardless of legal status) who are struggling financially due to COVID-19. AB 221 is co-sponsored by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) and the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP). AB 221 is supported by over 50 organizations, including SEIU California and the California Food and Farming Network.
“Californians across the state are experiencing high rates of food insecurity due to COVID-19,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago. “Hunger should not be a consequence of this public health crisis. California must support residents who are struggling to survive this devastating pandemic, and that is why we are fighting to provide them with emergency food assistance.”
“I am grateful to see AB 221 pass the Assembly Human Services Committee,” said joint author Assemblymember Robert Rivas. “This pandemic has intensified food insecurity for those already struggling to get by, and AB 221 will help increase access to nutritious food for all Californians, regardless of their immigration status. Our food insecure residents cannot wait any longer, and I look forward to seeing AB 221 advance through the Legislature.”
"No Californian, regardless of immigration status, should have to go without food," said joint author Assemblymember David Chiu. "I'm grateful my colleague, Assemblymember Santiago, has taken up this issue to ensure California is supporting all of our residents and addressing hunger during this difficult time."
"We need to bring immediate help to our working-class families, especially in our immigrant communities, who have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These families experienced food insecurity prior to the pandemic and need assistance now more than ever," said principal co-author Senator Susan Rubio. "I was a young child when my family migrated to the United States. So I know first hand the hardships immigrant families endure. Immediate assistance amid the pandemic, as well as after, is absolutely critical.”
“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 WCLP 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 remains dire. Right now, nearly 1 in 4 Californians are experiencing food insecurity, and more than a third of Black and Latinx households with children are hungry. Unemployment remains high, federal relief excludes many immigrant Californians who are doing essential work to keep California going through this crisis, and California’s food banks are bracing for a recovery that will last years to come," said Shanti Elise Prasad, Senior Policy Advocate for California Association of Food Banks. "We are grateful for the leadership of Asm. Santiago and proudly sponsor AB 221, which provides desperately needed one-time emergency food cards for people, including essential workers, ineligible for CalFresh. We are happy to see AB 221 advance through the Assembly Human Services Committee and look forward to seeing this bill passed. Access to food is a basic human right."
"A year after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States and after tens of thousands have been laid off or their work hours were reduced, the ravages of this pandemic are vast,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA. “Despite the progress made, the economic hardship is felt even more acutely in communities of color and amongst immigrants. We are pleased that the first step is being taken to provide emergency food security to vulnerable populations hit the hardest as a result of COVID-19."
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic recession have left many Californians struggling to pay for rent, groceries, and other basic necessities. As of January 2021, 22.5% of California households were experiencing food insecurity, with an even higher rate of 27.8% food insecurity for households with children. While California has existing food assistance programs, such as CalFresh, the ongoing crisis has overwhelmed state and federal safety net programs. Additionally, undocumented immigrants remain ineligible for many of these programs.
To address skyrocketing rates of food insecurity, AB 221 would provide $600 of emergency food assistance for low-income residents who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
AB 221 will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Assemblymember 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 Committee 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.