Food and housing insecurity were a concern for military families even before the coronavirus hit, but the economic blow of the crisis has hit these families hard.
“Many of the individuals needing help now have never found themselves in this situation before. They’re not aware of the resources available to them,” said Diane Rath, executive director of the Alamo Area Council of Governments in Texas, one of several panelists on a Tuesday town hall hosted by the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative.
In San Antonio, known as “Military City, U.S.A.,” one food bank went from serving 6,000 people a week to 15,000 a week, just as supply began to diminish because restaurants, hotels and other food sources began to close, Rath said.
Those most at risk of not having enough food are junior enlisted officers with multiple dependents, according to Jen Davis, the government relations deputy director at the National Military Family Association. Davis said the issue remains a priority for her organization, including in discussions with lawmakers.
“We have been focused on long-term solutions for this, but now we are working on short-term solutions, too,” Davis said. “What I would like to tell families is we hear you.”
There is optimism that the food issues will be a focus of future stimulus legislation.
“We are thinking hard about how to address these specific needs, because that wasn’t a large factor in the first having on military families. round, which was more general relief,” said Ian Staples, legislative director for U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.). “But military families have unique problems that need to be addressed.”
Many service families are also struggling with housing needs, including those who are stranded in the middle of PCS moves because of DOD’s stop-move order. DOD has authorized commanders to address housing issues because they know best what is going on in their communities, said Jerilyn Busch, director of military compensation in the office of the undersecretary of defense for personnel readiness.
Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams