BREAKING: Final Budget Includes 4.1% Increase for Anti-Hunger Programs
The state House and Senate have approved a spending plan that includes a 4.1 percent increase in the line item that supports the commonwealth’s most critical anti-hunger programs.
This represents one of the most significant funding increases in years in our fight against hunger in Pennsylvania --- and it never would have happened without the support and advocacy of our members and stakeholders. Your visits to the Capitol and your calls and letters to legislators made the difference.
While the increase is good news, it’s not the end of the story … unfortunately.
Even though the General Assembly has approved the spending plan, the final budget has not been enacted. That’s because the accompanying revenue plan isn’t finished.
So, the final 2016-17 budget has been sent to Gov. Tom Wolf and is awaiting his signature. However, he said he won’t sign the measure until that revenue plan is in place. The new budget represents an increase of about 5 percent in state spending. As I write this, the legislature remains in session --- the fiscal year officially ended June 30 --- to finish work on the revenue package. Fingers crossed!
At Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, we’re cautiously optimistic. We saw both parties come together to negotiate a budget --- a big difference from last year, when the budget impasse lasted nine months --- so we remain hopeful that that spirit of compromise will continue in crafting a final revenue plan that will secure approvals.
In terms of numbers:
Under the approved budget, the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) line item will increase from $18.438 million to $19.188 million. SFPP remains one of the commonwealth’s most important tools in the fight against hunger and a lifeline for food banks across Pennsylvania. The program provides cash grants to counties for the purchase and distribution of food to low-income individuals, including seniors. For years, the program has suffered from stagnant funding even as need rose dramatically.
The SFPP line item is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and supports programs such as the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). As you know, PASS was created by Act 113 of 2010, but the program had never been funded beyond the pilot phase, until last year. This budget would allocate up to $1 million in continued funding for PASS.
There isn’t a single community in Pennsylvania that isn’t affected by hunger. This funding is critical.
Of course, there are still a few hurdles to go to ensure everything is final. Like I said, we’re cautiously optimistic. But crossing fingers and toes can’t hurt!
Stay tuned for updates …