Aug. 4, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
People dependent on SNAP will be able to use their government benefits to buy groceries online on a permanent basis if a new bill that was passed by the state legislature last month is signed into law.
The legislation, sponsored in the assembly by Andrew Hevesi, is one of four bills the lawmaker successfully shepherded through the legislature in July that seeks to protect low income New Yorkers.
Hevesi said that COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity for those on SNAP and that his bill would make permanent a current pilot program that permits SNAP recipients with the ability to buy groceries online.
SNAP recipients have historically been unable to use their benefits to buy groceries online. He said that the new bill would permanently remove that restriction.
Hevesi, who represents New York’s 28th District in central Queens, said COVID-19 has put an added strain on families and that SNAP recipients should have the same freedom of choice when it comes to purchasing food as non-SNAP recipients.
“I am proud to have removed an unnecessary hurdle to food accessibility,” Hevesi said in a statement Friday.
The legislator, who is the Assembly Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Services, also spearheaded the passing of legislation that would help the state provide better care for the homeless in future state emergencies.
He sponsored and passed a bill that calls for a report to be compiled to gather information on the effects of COVID-19 on sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals.
Hevesi said that the homeless have suffered disproportionately during COVID-19 in terms of higher deaths and hospitalizations. He said that a lack of safe, private and clean living spaces increased their chances of transmitting the disease.
The report will gather information on the number of confirmed infections among the homeless population; the number of hospitalizations; the number of deaths; and other details on homeless individuals.
Hevesi said that the state would be able to provide better care and protection for the homeless in future emergencies once it has this information.
The Commissioner of the Department of Health, The Commissioners of the Department of Homeless Services and the Commissioner of The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will carry out the research, according to the bill.
State Senator John Liu, who represents the 11th District in northeast Queens, sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
Liu said that the state has a responsibility to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless population so that it can better protect them in the future.
“For people experiencing homelessness, a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic can compound an already difficult and unstable situation,” Liu said in a statement Friday.
Assemblyman Hevesi announced the passage of two other bills he successfully sponsored through the state legislature.
Bill A8645 calls on the Department of Social Services to collect data about services and housing provided to survivors of human trafficking. The 2018-19 state budget included $2 million for these services and the bill seeks data to determine the effectiveness of the program. State Senator John Liu sponsored the bill through the Senate.
Bill A10513 calls for a report on child welfare preventative services to ascertain if they are achieving their goals. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services will carry out the report and it will be submitted to the governor and the legislature.