June 27 Federal Update: Bipartisan Gun Safety Legislation Signed into Law
Last week, Congress passed major gun safety legislation for the first time in 30 years. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed with a vote of 65-33 in the Senate and 234-193 in the House of Representatives. President Biden signed the bill into law on Saturday. Following the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, a small bipartisan group of moderate Senate lawmakers came together to hash out a bill that could gain 60 votes and overcome the chamber’s filibuster. The resulting compromise did not include some Democratic priorities, including bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines; however, its provisions were significant enough to gain intense opposition from the National Rifle Association, which ultimately failed in its lobbying efforts. In the Senate, all 50 Democrats were joined by 15 Republicans in passing the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said is “going to save lives.”
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act expands background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21 to include juvenile and mental health records and gives authorities up to 10 days to perform the checks, up from three days in current law. As part of the compromise, this provision would expire after 10 years. In the bill, $750 million would go to incentivizing states to pass red flag laws, which allow law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from people seen as dangerous in the eyes of a judge. For states that do not implement red flag laws, they will have the option of using the money to support crisis and violence intervention programs. The legislation also closes the “boyfriend loophole,” a long-sought provision among Democrats, which would bar people convicted of domestic violence or under a restraining order to buy a gun, whether they are spouses or intimate partners. The bill would also commit $300 million to school safety and community mental health programs, including training for school personnel who work with minors with mental health challenges. Finally, the bill would create the first-ever federal prohibition on gun trafficking, which would crack down on “straw purchasers,” or buyers who obtain guns for others who can’t legally buy guns.
Congressional Budget Office Releases Report on Work Requirements and Supports
The Congressional Budget Office released a report on the effect of work requirements and work supports on employment and income for participants in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid. The study found that work requirements increased employment for TANF and SNAP enrollees but not for Medicaid enrollees. Because programs decrease benefits as participants earn more, the increase in income for TANF beneficiaries was equal to the decrease in benefits, while the SNAP and Medicaid beneficiaries saw their benefits reduce more than their income rose, as a result of work requirements. The data on work supports was more promising. Subsidized child care, job search assistance, and subsidized employment increased employment for beneficiaries, while job training had more varied effects. Moreover, the study found that work supports through government programs gave participants extra resources to spend on goods and services.
Congress Passes School Meal Aid Bill to Combat Child Hunger
Late last week, Congress passed the Keep Kids Fed Act, which would extend COVID-19-related school meal waivers for another year. Originally passed in the 2020 Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the waivers expand eligibility for free school meals by increasing the income cut off from 130% to 185% of the poverty level. Under the waivers, reimbursement rates are enhanced to allow schools to afford meal provision, given supply chain challenges and rising food prices. For the 2022-2023 school year, rates would increase by 15 cents per breakfast and 40 cents per lunch. The waivers also allow flexibilities, such as giving parents the ability to pick up meals to eat at home. The Keep Kids Fed Act would extend these waivers through Sept. 30, 2022, for the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option, and through June 30, 2023, for the 2022-2023 academic year. The bill is budget neutral, as it uses unspent funds from prior pandemic spending to cover the waiver extensions.
New Fact Sheet on the SNAP-Ed Program
The Food and Nutrition Service released a fact sheet on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), which educates SNAP recipients on how to budget effectively, cook healthy meals and increase physical activity. Program research shows that 40% of participants ate more fruits and vegetables and drank fewer sugar beverages and 35% were more physically active. Moreover, SNAP-Ed programs in schools are associated with enhanced cardiovascular fitness. One of its partner programs in Georgia, “Be a Health Hero: EAT, DRINK, MOVE,” utilized marketing campaigns, like billboards, shopping tote bags, and store signage, to increase awareness of healthy eating practices.