Missouri chooses to participate in the federal Summer EBT program before the deadline

The Department of Social Services in Missouri has declared that it will be taking part in the federal Summer EBT program in the next year. A Department spokesman stated the notice was sent on December 21 to the Food and Nutrition Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although this does not ensure that the program will be implemented in the state, Missouri has sent a notice to the USDA expressing its interest in taking part in it. Missouri has the chance to create a distribution mechanism for the allotted resources by submitting the notice. This strategy must be submitted by the state by February 15th. It is important to note that Missouri is not yet included on the USDA website’s list of participating governments.

Missouri’s letter of intent raises concerns about the Summer EBT program’s implementation in 2024 because USDA Food and Nutrition Services has not provided clear guidelines. The letter draws attention to the difficulties that could result from this lack of direction. Moreover, approval by the Missouri General Assembly—which has not yet been granted—is a prerequisite for Missouri to meet the state match requirements for administrative funds.

The Food Research and Action Center estimates that 420,000 children in Missouri will be eligible for summer food assistance. There will be benefits of about $51,480,000 from this scheme. During the summer, eligible families can use an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to collect grocery benefits totaling around $40 per month.

In 2022, families faced a one-year delay in benefit distribution due to a delay in securing funding for a scheme comparable to this one.

The primary reason given by Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for not choosing to participate in the program in 2023 was the delays.

Spokesman for DESE Mallory McGowin stated that the federal requirements for administering and obtaining benefits, together with the shortcomings of the state and local data collection systems currently in place, have made the process difficult.

Due to a difference in eligibility, there were some problems with the Summer 2022 Pandemic EBT program, which included children under the age of six, and the permanent Summer EBT program, which does not.

Together with other advocacy groups, Empower Missouri and the Missouri Budget Project have written a letter to Governor Mike Parson. The governor is urged in the letter to see to it that the state takes part in the initiative.

The letter highlighted how these programs offer beneficial educational and enrichment opportunities, while also making a major difference in combating youngster hunger throughout the summer. It also emphasizes how valuable these initiatives are, yet they only benefit a small percentage of Missouri’s school-age children who receive free or reduced-price meals. Contrarily, summer EBT helps close this disparity by giving families rewards to spend on food at restaurants.

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