Hochul signs law to expand SNAP benefits to restaurants

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in Albany, New York
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who takes office as New York’s chief executive on Aug. 24, gives a thumbs up at her Aug. 11 press conference in Albany.
REUTERS/Cindy Schultz

Governor Kathy Hochul appeared at the Brownsville Recreation Center Oct. 4 to sign legislation that guarantees SNAP recipients the opportunity to purchase prepared meals at restaurants. 

Sponsored by Assemblymember Karines Reyes, the bill mandates that the state enroll in the federal Restaurant Meals Program.

“From the New York State Department of Health, to New York’s network of food banks across the state, they will provide, they will be able to purchase from the restaurant to get it out to the people they serve,” Hochul said. “It’s that simple.”

She later clarified that though the signing of the bill happened immediately, the federal approval process will not happen overnight. 

In addition to providing SNAP relief by signing Reyes’ bill, Hochul wants to help restaurants recover by establishing a route to get $1.4 million in federal aid to the state and establish a $25 million restaurant resiliency program.

This would subsequently help the most vulnerable SNAP recipients: the elderly, who cannot always make it to the grocery store or make their own food, the homeless and displaced who may not have access to kitchens, and those who need assistance for a disability. 

“Today is about feeding people,” Hochul said. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SNAP benefits for a family of 4 went from $680 to $835, and Hochul says they will stay that way for the time being. 

Jerome Nathaniel, director of policy and government relations at City Harvest, spoke to the need for food banks that the virus caused. City Harvest has distributed 200 million pounds of food since March 2020. 

“A lot of families that use our services run out of benefits,” Nathaniel said.  He applauded the new plan for creating more options.

The NYC Hospitality Alliance also showed support, and a local East New York restaurant owner as well.

Andrew Walcott, the founder of Fusion East in Brooklyn, had his restaurant temporarily close because of COVID. “As everyone in this room knows the economic shutdown in the service industry was very hard, including restaurants,” Walcott said. He expressed his thanks to the assemblymember and the governor for their support of small businesses. 

“Their leadership not only makes sure that restaurants like mine stay open, but that they thrive in the future as well,” Walcott said. 

Once the state’s application is approved by the federal government, these expanded benefits should take effect in January.