End of school year coincides with end of expanded food subsidies for Georgian children

Georgian families will no longer receive extra money for groceries to keep children‘s stomachs from growling during the summer.

Georgian households are no longer eligible for pandemic-EBT benefits that enhanced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The enlarged program has provided ‌Centaines‌ ‌de‌ ‌Millions‌ ‌de‌ ‌dollars of ‌nourrite‌ ‌pour‌ ‌Familles‌ ‌Al ‌Deux‌ ‌ years. The resulting loss adds to concerns for Georgian food banks, which continue to try to meet increased demand due to the pandemic. Community food banks are often the last resort for families facing hunger.

The Georgia program that recently provided enhanced federal benefits to nearly 770,000 Georgians ends after the state refused to submit a claim that would have covered summer vacation and next school year payments.

The‌ Georgia ‌Department‌ ‌of‌ ‌Human‌ ‌Services‌ ‌announced‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ SNAP recipients would begin receiving their normal monthly benefits beginning June 1.

During‌ ‌‌ ‌ ‌ 2019-2020‌ ‌school year‌ ‌,‌ ‌the state‌ ‌provided more than $290 million in extended benefits to 1.1 million children who received free or reduced-price school lunches.

It expires at the start of the summer vacation when the USDA reports grocery prices are 10.8% higher than a year ago and the cost of gasoline has skyrocketed in recent weeks, adding to the financial pressure on many families.

“It’s been fairly well documented that food insecurity and hardship during the summer is heightened for low-income families with children, those who are accustomed to getting free or reduced-price meals during the school year,” said said Poonam Gupta, research analyst. with the non-profit think tank Urban Institute, which published a report on program operations.

The program that allowed families to use debit cards to buy food was rolled out in 2020 at a time when many schools were not teaching in the classroom, followed by a mix of virtual and in-person learning. The last two years, the volunteers took a step to fill the void left by the reduced number of school meal options.

The end of the program could mean a loss of $ 120‌‌ ‌‌million‌‌ ‌‌en‌ advantages‌ snap ‌ ‌pour‌ ‌familles, according‌ ‌ ‌ ‌la‌ ‌géorgie‌ ⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀⌀ with

While many Georgians have returned to their normal pre-pandemic routine, many black families and low-income households are still reeling from economic downturns. The‌ ‌food‌ ‌relief‌ ‌program‌ is‌ ‌also‌ ‌more‌ ‌widely used in rural communities, such as areas of Georgia with some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, wrote Ife Finch Floyd, senior economic justice policy analyst at GBPI.

“Georgia is emerging from the pandemic economic downturn, but the recovery is uneven and the inequalities that existed before the pandemic persist,” Finch said. wrote in a May 18 analysis. “Policymakers should use temporary stimulus funds as a starting point to advance racial equity and should consider how to use state and federal resources for a vision for Georgia where Blacks, Browns and Whites, city dwellers and longtime rural residents have a base for economic opportunity.”

Kemp spokeswoman Katie Byrd encouraged Georgians facing food insecurity to seek alternatives, including a national student summer meal program and regional food banks, to supplement the normal benefits provided. under SNAP.

As the benefits of the SNAP pandemic run out, Kemp recently announced federal grants to several food banks to help address food insecurity. This includes $29.5 million for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and a total of $8.3 million for the Coastal Georgia US Second Harvest and Georgia Mountain Food Bank. ‌

In addition, the governor has implemented a state program to address fresh produce shortages at regional food banks.

“In Georgia, we were the first to reopen our economy safely and appropriately,” Byrd said in a statement. “We have protected both lives and livelihoods, and now our state is bouncing back at a faster rate than any other state. Our unemployment rate is at record highs and more Georgians are employed than ever before.

“Starting in June, every SNAP household in Georgia will receive benefits based on the usual factors to determine eligibility, including household size, income and deductions,” Byrd said.

There was unanimous statewide participation when the additional benefits program was first created in 2020 as part of the American Rescue Act.

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But there were some bureaucratic hiccups along the way, leading to states like Georgia retroactively disbursing their funding last year because the states didn’t get federal approval initially.

“One of the big problems with P-EBT is that the guidance is released so late by the USDA and (Food and Nutrition Service) that states don’t really have enough time to come up with a plan in a timely manner and get benefits,” Gupta says.

Developing a plan for the additional pandemic while managing other assistance programs has become a heavy burden over the past year, leaving many state SNAP administrators overworked. ‌

In the meantime, as students returned to classroom environments primarily at school, school officials were tasked with collecting data, such as if a student missed school due to quarantine or other factors, and there was no central database to track the new information, according to Gupta.

However, the last round of applications was approved for 30 statesincluding Georgia’s neighbors.

Georgia food banks in 2021 distributed 205 million pounds of produce and other groceries as some of the need slowly declined from the 2020 pandemic peak but was still 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels , according to the Georgia Food Bank Association.

The decrease in benefits comes at a difficult time for many Georgians in need as well as food banks, Georgia Food Banks spokeswoman Callie Roan said.

“As a network, we are concerned but remain vigilant as we enter the summer months when many children are no longer receiving meals at school and are eating more often from their family pantry,” said she declared. “With the support of communities and our federal and state partners, our food banks will continue to work together across the state to best meet the needs, despite the obstacles.”

Summer school meal programs

The program is ending as most school districts across the state launch summer lunch programs, with support from another federal grant program.

For example, the Marietta City School District will provide free lunches to anyone under the age of 18 through July 22. Meals are offered at 37 locations across the city, while select locations also offer five-day breakfast and lunch pickup services.

The flexibility of school lunch programs that really resumed at the start of the pandemic during school closures has greatly benefited students across the state, said Linette Dodson, director of school nutrition for the Department of Education. Georgia Education.

The upcoming school year also marks the end of a federal waiver program that allowed Georgia school systems to provide free lunches to all students, regardless of family income level.

Before the pandemic, about 60%, just over one million Georgia public school students were eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

Dodson said she’s been impressed with the commitment of local school districts and their school nutrition programs since the pandemic began.

“I believe we can continue to meet the needs of students in Georgia and I feel confident even with the transitions that will occur over the next school year,” she said. “I know our local programs are very committed to continuing to provide school meals and of course we are committed to supporting them in this.”

Kemp faces political criticism

While‌ ‌Kemp‌ ‌easily won the May 24 GOP primary for the governor, he faces criticism for allowing emergency food benefits to expire.

Former State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, a Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate, publicly attacked her November opponent last week.

“Just recently, it was the governor who, amid rising food costs and a shortage of infant formula, decided to cut $120 million in benefits to working families in Georgia who have need help with food,” Abrams said at a news conference.

“This is going to hurt Georgiana in every way, especially rural Georgians and Georgians who are in desperate need of support, because while he may have declared the end of the pandemic, it’s not over for millions. Georgians and they deserve his help, not his contempt,” she says.

U.S. Representative Lucy McBath, a Democrat from Gwinnett County, wrote to Kemp in March, urging her administration to complete the bid for the 2021-2022 school year to avoid compromising children’s access to food during the summer.

“During the summer months, children are most vulnerable to food insecurity as schools are closed and summer meal programs only reach a small percentage of children,” McBath said. wrote on his Congressional letterhead to Kemp on March 3.

Jill Nolin, associate editor of Georgia Recorder, contributed to this report.

What there is to know:

The Pandemic-EBT benefits program will no longer be available beginning Wednesday, June 1. Extended benefits provided extra money for groceries during the school year and the summer months.

For more information on SNAP benefits, visit https://dfcs.georgia.gov/snap-food-stamps, gateway.georgia.gov or call 877-423-4746

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