Assembly Panel Unanimously Approves the FRESH Act to Fast Track Necessary Reentry Benefits for Justice Impacted Individuals and Unlock Millions in New Federal Funding

SB 1254 (The FRESH Act) connects incarcerated individuals with vital services such as CalFresh and other resources prior to release in order to increase the success of reentry.

 Sacramento, CA— Today, the Assembly Committee on Human Services passed The FRESH Act (SB 1254), authored by Senator Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park). This bill allows incarcerated individuals to pre-apply for CalFresh benefits 90 days prior to their release in order to better prepare them for a more successful reentry. It taps into underutilized federal funding that supports CalFresh and expands access for individuals that would otherwise qualify for it without imposing any additional costs to the state. This bill also creates a workgroup that will create a statewide, uniform process for reentry for all incarcerated individuals. 

 “Expanding and streamlining access to benefits and programs for which incarcerated individuals already qualify increases the success of their reentry,” said Becker. “We need to employ every option we have to ensure that the reentry process is as seamless as possible. The FRESH Act connects people to vital services and fresh foods, making it easier to transition into their community, all while tapping into millions, potentially billions, in new federal resources ” 

 Food insecurity is one of the most challenging hurdles that previously-incarcerated individuals face upon reentry. In 2019, roughly 1 in 5 formerly incarcerated people suffered from food insecurity. While there is already an existing reentry enrollment process for Medi-Cal and other benefits, there are no equivalent enrollment processes for CalFresh and other supportive services. The FRESH Act creates this process for these programs and removes unnecessary barriers to reentry. In doing so, it helps reduce food insecurity in California and builds upon existing work in connecting individuals with state services in an effective manner, and also does further work to clear a path to reentry. 

 Expanding eligibility for CalFresh would unlock an estimated $1.8 billion in additional CalFresh dollars from the federal government each year. This new federal money would support local grocery stores and farms, increase the spending power of struggling Californians, bolster local economies, and generate an estimated additional $3.3 billion in economic activity per year. It would also allow recently incarcerated individuals to use the CalFresh Employment and Training program, an additional source of support that can further drive economic benefits resulting from active participation in the workforce. 

 The FRESH Act is sponsored by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children-All of Us or None and Nourish California, and is supported by Justice in Aging, the California Association of Food Banks, Second Harvest Silicon Valley, and more. 

It now heads to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations for its consideration.