For college students, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging in more ways than one. Tuition, materials, fees and meal plans add up quickly, leaving many students struggling to stay on top of their schoolwork as they figure out how to pay for everything. This has worsened during the pandemic, which has forced many students out of work and back into their childhood homes. Thankfully, the Biden administration passed The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021; this act alleviates stress for many students regarding where their next meal is going to come from by extending requirements for The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
SNAP is a federal program that provides food benefits to low-income Americans. With the federal hourly minimum wage being $7.25, ensuring that one’s family is being fed nutritious meals is a source of stress for many Americans. SNAP has the ability to take away this stress. Though this program helps families, it neglects an economically-challenged demographic: college students. Although students often receive financial assistance from family members, this is not guaranteed for many of us.
Before the new extension in eligibility requirements, students had to work at least 20 hours per week to be qualified for the program. This placed extra stress on students who need assistance paying for food. Rather than alleviating this issue and allowing students to focus entirely on their schoolwork, the Trump administration worsened the issue by decreasing benefits for college students and complicating the process of deciding who is eligible. Simple details such as these are deterrents for many students, as it can be difficult to navigate an application process and can often feel pointless if benefits are minimal. Students deserve a straightforward, beneficial program, and that is what The Consolidated Appropriations Act strives to achieve.
Thankfully, the temporary extension discards the requirement that students must participate in work-study to receive benefits. To enroll in the program, the students must either be eligible for work-study during the school year or have a $0 expected family contribution (EFC). This is a great step in the right direction because it removes the pressure of employment from students who already have plenty of duties. Before the pandemic, juggling so many responsibilities was exhausting. Now, it feels nearly impossible. Instead of forcing low-income college students to sacrifice their spare time to work for necessities such as food, programs such as SNAP should act as a wall to lean on.
Although the temporary extension can remove some of the stress college students endure, it is not enough. While conditions have undoubtedly worsened, college students still struggled to afford nutritious food before the pandemic. We are expected to attain good grades, participate in extracurriculars, excel at our internships and enjoy these unique four years. On top of everything, we are forced into adulthood with little preparation. It is unfair to also expect college students to have a job, as this seemingly innocent addition can tip the scales, acting as a breaking point for many of us. The last thing we need to worry about is how we are going to get three meals a day. With the permanent implementation of these new extensions, college students will have one less thing to worry about in their stress-ridden lives.