Pandemic-related assistance to the vulnerable is on the decline, but the price of eggs certainly isn’t.
That’s why Tenderloin community leaders and Supervisor Dean Preston rallied on the steps of City Hall on Monday. Preston has proposed a resolution that would call on state leaders to cover the loss of recently expired Emergency CalFresh benefits experienced by thousands in San Francisco.
“There’s nothing more basic than making sure that people have the food that they need and don’t go hungry,” Preston said.
The benefits were expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic through federal aid, but that funding expired after Feb. 28.
The loss impacted about 70,000 households in San Francisco, or 100,000 people, for whom the average benefit immediately plummeted by $160 per month — with many reverting to the $23 minimum per month, Mission Local reported.
Tenderloin community leaders promised Monday that the impacts will be dire.
In a city where public safety is a paramount concern, many warned that people could be forced to steal food.
“If they think there’s snatching and grabbing now, what’s going to happen in the grocery stores? This is going to cause chaos,” said Cheryl Shanks, a Tenderloin activist and resident.
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The consequences won’t only be felt by individuals, but by businesses who serve them. Citing data from the California Department of Social Services, advocates note that benefits spending amounts to about $12 million in San Francisco every month.
Satwinder Multani, who owns Daldas Community Market in The Tenderloin, said a number of stores in The City depend on CalFresh Benefits. Meanwhile, the cost of groceries has increased by 10% to 15% in the past six to nine months, he said.
“The cost of living is going up, so by cutting the COVID extra relief, it’s not going to help the community and the seniors, especially,” Multani said.
Preston argued that allowing the expanded CalFresh benefits to lapse amounts to undoing progress made during the pandemic. He cited The City’s investments in permanent supportive housing and rent relief as examples.
“What happens to all these things we did that have kept people alive during this pandemic?” Preston asked. “Are we going to build on these successes that increased housing security, food security, healthcare for people during this pandemic? Or are we going to throw up our hands and let these benefits expire and go backwards?”
The resolution proposed by Preston implores the state government to fill the gap.
“The loss of these emergency benefits will significantly decrease the standard of living for low-income Californians and will disproportionately hurt those who are the most marginalized,” the resolution argues.
The resolution is up for a vote by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.