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Relief programs must adapt during the pandemic and beyond | READER COMMENTARY

Vehicles are filled with food and supplies by volunteers, courtesy of the Student Support Network earlier this year. More than 21% of the population in Baltimore and Baltimore County have experienced food insecurity, according to the organization Feeding America. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media).
Vehicles are filled with food and supplies by volunteers, courtesy of the Student Support Network earlier this year. More than 21% of the population in Baltimore and Baltimore County have experienced food insecurity, according to the organization Feeding America. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media). (Brian Krista)

Kudos on your recent article, “Pandemic relief programs are going away. Here’s how you can still get help” (July 19), which offers clarity to the complicated landscape of the federal pandemic relief programs. Millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Marylanders have depended on these programs during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s apparent that the pandemic is not over, and we need to take stock of what changes we need to make and keep as a nation.

In 2019, 74% of Americans identified that they were living paycheck to paycheck, according to a survey conducted by the American Payroll Association. Nearly three-quarters of all Americans already needed substantial support before the pandemic and did not have the means to weather the unexpected. This knowledge could help us provide better support to our neighbors now, as well as in the future.

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As the article noted, the assistance that will remain looks a lot like it did before: inadequate, often confusing and with space for arbitrary exclusions. In Maryland, federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and school meals became somewhat easier to access with more adequate benefits levels. The recent benefit increases and expanded access to healthy school meals have had a tremendous impact on continuing to address food insecurity in Maryland and across the nation. It’s my hope that before we revert back to a system that wasn’t working, we try to move forward.

Michael J. Wilson, Baltimore

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The writer is director of Maryland Hunger Solutions.

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