“We know that families are losing their jobs and wages, and P-EBT is truly an extraordinary support that can help these families, but that is not moving fast enough,” said Crystal FitzSimons, director of the school program at the Food Research & Action Center . “This concerns a long time and we know that the family is in crisis.”
At the same time, food insecurity among families increases when unemployment increases amid a pandemic. More than 40% of mothers with children under 12 say in April that the food they buy doesn’t last long and they don’t have enough money to get more, up from around 15% in 2018, according to a recent survey from the Brookings Institute .
“Looking over time, especially at the relatively small increase in child food insecurity during the Great Recession, it is clear that young children experience food insecurity to an unprecedented level in modern times,” wrote Lauren Bauer, survey author.
Money to eat
The Pandemic EBT provision provides about $ 114 a month per child, which is the value of free breakfast and lunch for five school days a week. Eligible families will receive funding for the time their school closes, usually from mid-March, until the end of the school year around May or June, depending on the country.
However, this program is difficult to make. It took three weeks for the US Department of Agriculture to approve the first state – Michigan – and only 17 states received a nod in April. 21 other countries have received the green light so far in May.
But even after they get approval, countries face many hurdles in getting funds for families, especially those who have not yet entered the Additional Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the official name for food stamps. In many countries, there are far more households that qualify in this category than those who receive food stamps, who will only have additional funds added to the existing benefit card.
Countries must work with their school districts to identify all eligible children in households that do not use food stamps and then send them a benefit card with these funds.
In addition, they have to take “unreasonable” costs to issue these cards to these households when they experience a budget crisis, said Stacy Dean, vice president for food aid policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
Some countries automatically give funds to families who don’t receive food stamps. But others – including California, Missouri, and Illinois – require them to apply for benefits, sometimes because it’s more difficult for school districts to transfer records to social service agents. But this can delay or prevent some households from participating.
Many countries have started sending funds to families, especially those already in the food stamps program. But many others, including New York, Maryland and Florida – who together have more than 4.5 million eligible children, say they will not distribute money most quickly until June.
In Virginia, around 620,000 eligible children must have their EBT Pandemic funds on a family card or by post by Monday, at the latest, said Duke Storen, commissioner of the state’s Department of Social Services.
The agency, which received federal approval at the end of April, worried that it would take more time to provide benefits to children who need cards – about half of the total – because of limited supplies. However, vendors have recently sent out full batches, allowing countries to distribute funds faster.
However, Storen knows that money – $ 376 per child for 66 missed school days – cannot come immediately to some children and their parents.
“Although I hope we can put benefits in the hands of families faster – they needed it a month ago, but they also need these benefits today,” said Storen, whose agency spent $ 2 million to manage the program, half of which will be replaced by the government federal.
Haven’t participated yet
However, nearly a dozen states have not yet joined the program, and it has an impact on their young population.
At Marietta City Schools in Georgia, 60% of 8,000 students will qualify for Pandemic EBT, according to Superintendent Grant Rivera.
Even with the take-and-go meal program they have offered while schools have closed, it is difficult to reach all eligible students, he told CNN. Only 34% of those participated.
Having a card with money will be a “game-changer for children,” he said.
“What I see very often is they really need this food,” Rivera said. “And I’ve heard anecdotally from many families that they lost their jobs. Unemployment has not yet been processed. They really don’t know how they will feed their children.”
Utah, meanwhile, was unable to submit an application because of “some obstacles in data collection,” a spokesman for the state’s Department of Labor Services told CNN in a statement.
“Looking at the guidelines we found several obstacles in the data collection of students who received free and reduced lunches to determine eligibility,” said Brooke spokesman Porter Coles. “These constraints make it difficult to meet deadlines for participation. Utah is diligent in working with our federal and educational partners to create solutions to deliver these benefits.”
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