More than eight million children in 15 states, all led by Republican governors, will be shut out of a new federal food assistance program intended to help needy families during the summer months.
Set to begin this summer, the new program provides low-income families $120 per eligible child, which can be used to purchase food at grocery stores, farmers markets or other sanctioned retailers when such assistance is not available in schools.
The deadline for states to opt into the program, which was approved by Congress with bipartisan support, was Jan. 1. And this week, the federal Agriculture Department announced that 35 states, all five U.S. territories and four tribal nations, mostly in Oklahoma, had signed up for the program, which provides a total of $2.5 billion in federal funds for an estimated 21 million children whose families already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
The 35 states included the ones led by Democratic governors, and a dozen led by Republican governors from all parts of the country.
But 15 Republican-led states said no. Some of those governors voiced concerns about the mechanics and administrative costs of implementation; some indicated that they had ideological objections, and a lack of faith in the federal government.
“If the Biden administration and Congress want to make a real commitment to family well-being, they should invest in already existing programs and infrastructure at the state level and give us the flexibility to tailor them to our state’s needs,” Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa said in a statement last month about her state’s decision to reject the program, known as the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer, or Summer EBT.
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