Iowa will not participate in the U.S. Food Assistance Program for children this summer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa will not participate this summer in a federal program that gives $40 a month to each child in a low-income family to help with food costs while school is out, state officials announced .

The state notified the USDA that it will not participate in the 2024 Summer Child Benefit Electronic Transfer, or Summer EBT, program, the Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Education said in a news release Friday .

“Federal cash benefit programs of the COVID era are not sustainable and do not provide long-term solutions to the problems affecting children and families. The EBT card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic,” Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said in the press release.

She added, “If the Biden administration and Congress want to make a real commitment to family wellness, they need to invest in existing programs and infrastructure at the state level and give us the flexibility to tailor them to our state’s needs.”

States that participate in the federal program are required to cover half of the administrative costs, which will cost about $2.2 million in Iowa, the news release said.

Some state lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Isaa Knox of Des Moines, were quick to express their opposition to the decision.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Reynolds administration plans to turn away federal money that could put food on the table for hungry Iowa children,” Knox said in a statement. “This cruel and short-sighted decision will have a real impact on children and families in my district and communities across Iowa.”

Officials in nearby Nebraska also announced this week that the state will not participate in the Summer EBT, which will cost Nebraska about $300,000 a year in administrative costs, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

“At the end of the day, I fundamentally believe we’re solving the problem, and I don’t believe in welfare,” Nebraska Republican Gov. Jim Pillan told the Journal Star on Friday.

But Nebraska will continue to participate in a different federal program called the Summer Food Service Program, which combines programming — such as reading, physical activity and nutrition education — with food assistance, according to the Journal Star.

“We just want to make sure they’re out. They are in church camps. They are in the schools. They are in 4-H. And we’re going to take care of them in all the places they’re at, so they’re out there among (other people) and not feeding the welfare system with food at home,” Pilon said.

A bipartisan group of Nebraska lawmakers urged the state to reconsider, saying Summer EBT would meet the needs of vulnerable children and benefit the state economically, the Journal Star reported.

At least 18 states and territories and two tribal nations — the Cherokee Nation and the Chickasaw Nation — have announced they intend to participate in the Summer EBT in 2024, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The list includes Arizona, California, Kansas, Minnesota, West Virginia, American Samoa and Guam, among others.

States, territories and eligible tribal nations have until Jan. 1 to notify the Department of Agriculture of their intent to participate in the program this summer.

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