June 21, 2024
Funds

15 GOP-Led States Refuse Federal Funds to Feed Hungry Children in Summer


A child eats a sandwich.
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  • The Biden Administration has launched a permanent Summer EBT program to feed hungry children.
  • The program will feed an expected 21 million kids this summer, the USDA estimated.
  • Fifteen states, each currently led by Republicans, declined to enroll in the program. 

The Biden Administration just launched a new, permanent grocery program to feed children during the summer, and over a dozen Republican-led states have opted not to use it this year.

The US Department of Agriculture announced that the new Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer program will feed some 21 million children from 35 states, all five US territories, and four Tribes this summer.

The program gives families $120 per eligible child for groceries over the summer, according to the USDA press release.

“Together we’re making progress in closing the summer hunger gap and ensuring children are nourished and healthy year-round,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the press release.

Fifteen states, all currently led by Republican governors, were notably absent from the Summer EBT announcement. They include: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming.

(Former Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, was in office during the deadline to apply to the federal program. He has since been replaced by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry.)

Several of those states – including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina – had food insecurity rates surpassing the national average in 2020-2022, according to the latest data available by the USDA. Some 6.4 million households with children were food insecure in 2022, according to the data.

Spokespeople from some the states not participating in the Summer EBT program told BI they have similar programs in place already, plan to enroll in the program in the future, or do not plan to enroll in the program at all.

In Mississippi and Oklahoma, spokespersons from their respective health departments told BI their states have existing summer food assistance programs. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services released a statement last month expanding existing programs for year-round food support while declining to utilize the federal program.

A spokesperson from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said there is a budget request in its state legislature to approve funding for the Summer EBT program in 2025. Vermont officials made similar budgetary comments and committed to permanently enrolling in the federal program in the future, according to Vermont Public Radio.

Some who declined to participate in the Summer EBT program, however, were more direct.

“I don’t believe in welfare,” Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen said in December, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.



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