Gillibrand announces legislation to break down barriers to social services

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FILE – In this Feb. 10, 2021, file photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., arrives at the Capitol in Washington. Gillibrand became the first Democratic senator to call for her colleague Al Franken’s resignation amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct in 2017. The New York Democrat used the issue as a #MeToo rallying cry, building a 2020 presidential run around promoting women’s and family rights. But Gillibrand and other top Democrats have stopped short of calling on New York’s governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, to resign amid accusations of offensive behavior. (Joshua Roberts/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (NEWS10) — Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced legislation to break down barriers to essential social services as Americans struggle to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. This legislation is the Health, Opportunities, and Personal Empowerment Act, or HOPE Act.

This Act will break down barriers for low-income individuals and families so they can access the social services and benefits they need. According to Gillibrand, millions of recently unemployed Americans have turned to government support services — many for the first time — in order to keep food on the table and pay their bills.

The Senator says the HOPE Act would modernize and streamline how eligible recipients can access nutrition, housing, health care, job training, and unemployment assistance programs.

More than 82 million people have applied for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the process has been seen as deterring due to “unreasonably long wait times, misinformation regarding eligibility, dropped calls, and the inability to start the application process.” Additionally, while demand for nutrition services like SNAP has skyrocketed, many states and counties are struggling with significant backlogs.

“Now, in this critical time of recovery, the federal government has a responsibility to make anti-poverty, health care, nutrition, housing, and work support programs accessible to as many people as possible,” said Senator Gillibrand.

Companion legislation was reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Joe Morelle (D-NY). 

“Every day, families rely on government programs to help put food on the table and meet basic needs—and these services have been in even greater demand during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congressman Morelle. “Unfortunately, there are significant barriers that too often hold individuals back from accessing the benefits they need and deserve.”

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