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

Missouri’s Department of Social Services recently announced its intention to participate in the federal Summer EBT program for the upcoming year. According to a spokesperson for the Department, notice was submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s division of Food and Nutrition Services on December 21.

Missouri has submitted a notice to the USDA indicating its interest in participating in a program, although this does not guarantee that the program will be implemented in the state. By submitting the notice, Missouri has been given the opportunity to develop a distribution framework for the allocated resources. The state is required to submit this plan by February 15th. It is worth noting that Missouri is not currently listed as one of the participating governments on the USDA’s website.

The letter of intent submitted by Missouri expresses concerns about the implementation of the Summer EBT program in 2024 due to the absence of clear guidance from USDA Food and Nutrition Services. The letter highlights the potential challenges that may arise from this lack of guidance. Furthermore, the ability of Missouri to fulfill the state match requirements for administrative funding is contingent upon approval by the Missouri General Assembly, which is yet to be obtained.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, around 420,000 children in Missouri will have the opportunity to receive summer food assistance. This program will provide a total of approximately $51,480,000 in benefits. Eligible families will receive grocery benefits of about $40 per month during the summer, which can be accessed through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card.

Families experienced a delay in receiving the funds for a similar program in 2022, resulting in a one-year delay in the distribution of benefits.

Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education declined to opt-in to the program in 2023, citing the main reason as the delays.

DESE spokesperson Mallory McGowin acknowledged that the process has been challenging due to the federal requirements involved in accessing and administering the benefits, as well as the limitations of the current state and local data collection systems.

The Summer 2022 Pandemic EBT program, which included children under the age of 6, and the permanent Summer EBT program, which does not, created some issues due to a discrepancy in eligibility.

Empower Missouri and the Missouri Budget Project, along with other advocacy groups, have joined forces to send a letter to Gov. Mike Parson. The letter urges the governor to ensure the state’s participation in the program.

“These programs have a significant impact in addressing childhood hunger during the summer while also offering valuable educational and enrichment activities,” emphasized the letter. It further highlights that although these initiatives are beneficial, they only reach a small portion of Missouri’s children who depend on free and reduced-price meals during the school year. Summer EBT, on the other hand, helps bridge this gap by providing families with benefits to purchase food at retail locations.”

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