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Summer EBT will help families buy groceries. But 14 states are opting out.

Savannah Maher Apr 12, 2024
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While $40 per child per month may not solve child food insecurity, it could help families that struggle with grocery costs. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Summer EBT will help families buy groceries. But 14 states are opting out.

Savannah Maher Apr 12, 2024
Heard on:
While $40 per child per month may not solve child food insecurity, it could help families that struggle with grocery costs. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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The Department of Agriculture will launch its nationwide Summer EBT program in just a few months. Congress authorized the program in 2022. 

Families of some 21 million kids who usually get free or reduced-priced lunch at school will be eligible for $40 a month for each child to help pay for groceries during the summer. But 14 states, including South DakotaAlabama and Texas, have opted out of the program in its first year. 

Summer EBT benefits are covered by the federal government, though states pay half of the administrative costs. That could be a barrier, said Poonam Gupta with the Urban Institute.

“But at the end of the day, political will is a huge factor,” she said.

All 14 states opting out are Republican-led — including Iowa, whose governor said there aren’t enough restrictions on the types of food that families can buy. 

“It’s just incredibly disappointing to see that money left on the table,” said Luke Elzinga of the Iowa Hunger Coalition.

The program helps working parents, he said. And they can’t always get their kids to a free summer meal site at midday. “It just allows families to purchase groceries when they would otherwise be purchasing them anyway,” Elzinga said.

But with persistent inflation, can $40 per kid per month move the needle on child food insecurity

“You know the short answer is no,” Gupta said.

However, it could make struggling families’ grocery bills just a bit more manageable, she added.

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