WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez (both D-NJ) today urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to waive burdensome collection rules for its Emergency Food Assistance Program in order to better protect food bank workers and speed up the process by which struggling Americans can receive food.

As the lawmakers outlined in their letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, food banks around the country are increasingly relying on food provided by the federal government to meet increased demand at a time when their donations and volunteers are falling sharply. Yet in order to distribute government food, food banks are currently required to collect detailed personal information from recipients, which strains already under-resourced staff and volunteers while also endangering those same individuals – who often lack personal protective equipment – by prolonging their contact with a wide range of people.

“Allowing food banks to forego the additional burden of verifying recipient eligibility will protect all involved and ensure that vulnerable Americans have access to basic necessities as we continue to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Sens. Booker and Menendez wrote. “As such, we request that USDA issue a nationwide waiver immediately.”

While the USDA has said that eligibility requirements can’t be waived, the Department does have the authority to approve state requests for “disaster household distribution,” which relaxes requirements for documentation. Booker and Menendez asked the USDA to approve such requests and issue a national waiver.

Full text of the letter is available here.