Fifteen states opt out of summer food-assistance program

March 5, 2024

Beginning this summer, 35 states will make use of the Summer EBT program, adapted from its pandemic-era guidelines to help low-income families buy groceries while free school lunch is unavailable.

The $2.5 billion federal program provides $40 per month in Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards per school-aged child for eligible families. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will fund the full cost of the EBT cards and half of the administrative costs through its SNAP benefits program. States must match the other 50% of the administrative costs, such as technology and labor.

Every dollar spent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in local economic activity during an economic downturn, according to a USDA analysis.

Trial versions of the initiative, including the Pandemic-EBT program, have been proven to reduce child hunger and improve diet quality. All 50 states participated in P-EBT from 2019 to 2020 but could choose to opt in or out of Summer EBT by Feb. 15.

Fifteen states decided to forgo the federal dollars, citing overburdened state agencies and a lack of time to implement the program.

“Due to states just receiving Interim Final Rules on December 29, 2023 and additional guidance from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) regarding the program, current resource constraints at the state agencies, the level of effort needed to implement a new program, and the need for new appropriations from the Legislature, it is not feasible for Texas to successfully launch Summer EBT in 2024,” Texas health and human services spokesman Thomas Vasquez told Government Market News.

The USDA calculated that Texas turned down $450 million for 3.8 million eligible children.

The state of Florida also decided not to participate in the Summer EBT program. The state was eligible for approximately $250 million to supplement food costs for 2.1 million children. Administrative fees would have cost approximately $12 million.

“We anticipate that our state’s full approach to serving children will continue to be successful this year without any additional federal programs that inherently always come with some federal strings attached,” DCF Deputy Chief of Staff Mallory McManus said in a statement.

States that decided not to opt in are still eligible to participate in the program for summer 2025 and beyond, which Vasquez said is something Texas will continue to evaluate.

Arkansas and California are among states choosing to implement the program.

There are 3.8 million children eligible for Summer EBT in California. Participation in the program could spur an economic impact of $700 million to $800 million, according to the USDA.

In anticipation of participating in the program, California legislators set aside an estimate of the state’s 50% match from its annual budget. The total came out to $47 million.

“In order to tackle food insecurity among children, it’s vital for families to be able to afford nutritious foods. The Summer EBT Program gives families the financial support they need to do just that,” California Rep. Mike Levin said in a statement.

Arkansas has over 300,000 children who would be eligible for the program. The state could expect an economic impact of $56 million to $68 million from Summer EBT benefits this summer, according to the USDA.

“Making sure no Arkansan goes hungry, especially children, is a top concern for my administration,” Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

In the initial program guidance, the USDA recommended ways for states to recoup their half of implementation costs and make the Summer EBT program more feasible. The agency recommended utilizing State Administrative Expense (SAE) funds and previous non-competitive Technology Innovation Grant (TIG) awards.

All news and information on this site is provided by the team at Strategic Partnerships, Inc. Check out this short 1-minute video that provides a quick overview of how we work with clients.

Photo by Josue Michel on Unsplash

Gracie Warhurst

Gracie Warhurst has joined Strategic Partnerships, Inc. as a writer and digital content creator for the new Government Market News portal. With a rich background in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, Warhurst has experience as editor-in-chief of a literary magazine, assistant web editor, and project manager for an AI journalism project. She also contributed as a reporter during the development of SPI's news portal. Warhurst graduated summa cum laude in December 2023 with a Bachelor's in Journalism and a certificate in creative writing, making her a valuable asset to the SPI team.

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