Basic Assistance Act Introduced to Mt. SAC

In a press conference on campus, one congressional leader introduced legislation to combat student homelessness and hunger

Rep.+Norma+Torres+speaks+at+the+Mt.+SAC+Founder%E2%80%99s+Hall+on+Nov.+6+about+the+BASIC+Act.+Photo+credit%3A+Kareem+Majeed%2FSAC.Media.

Rep. Norma Torres speaks at the Mt. SAC Founder’s Hall on Nov. 6 about the BASIC Act. Photo credit: Kareem Majeed/SAC.Media.

Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35) held a press conference at Mt. SAC in Founder’s Hall on Nov. 6 to announce her introduction of the Basic Assistance for Students in College Act. The act provides a $500 million grant to various higher education institutions to provide day to day student needs.

“Until we reach the day when no student makes a meal from other students’ scraps, when no student has to fall asleep on the wheel of their vehicle, [and when] no student goes without the aid they qualify for, we have to work together,” Torres said about the efforts to solve this issue.

Montclair High School Vice Principal Victor Garnica also spoke about the impacts of homelessness and support programs in place for students at Montclair High School, and student representatives from UC Riverside also discussed their own efforts with food insecurity at Mt. SAC and Riverside.

This bill calls for planning grants to be used for developing plans that would counter student homelessness and food issues, while also calling for implementation of grants that would be used directly on subsidizing housing and food for students in need. Historically black universities and colleges, where at least 25 percent of the student body receives Pell Grants, are prioritized targets of funding.

The final aspect of the bill directs the Department of Education to coordinate with the Departments of Agriculture, Housing & Urban Development, and Health & Human Services to find students eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other assistance programs after ensuring those students are enrolled.

A quarter of the grant will be directed to California community colleges to provide additional support in an effort to combat student homelessness and hunger.

Student homelessness has been a growing issue in California. One 2018 Hope Center poll found that 18 percent of community college students and 14 percent of four-year students experience homelessness at some point during their time in college. At Mt. SAC alone, 46 percent of students cite themselves as food insecure, and 56 percent are also housing insecure.

The bill was introduced by California Sen. Kamala Harris last year, with Rep. Torres introducing the House counterpart. At the moment, it has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, where it awaits a formal vote.