Millions of children may miss pandemic food aid as states scramble to meet Trump administration mandate
Millions of low-income children are likely to miss out on special benefits that help their families buy groceries this month because the Trump administration has imposed eligibility requirements that prevent some states from getting the payments out before the money expires.
Congress created the program earlier this year to help make up for free and subsidized meals that children were missing while schools were either shut down or virtual due to coronavirus.
States were able to figure out who should get the payments in the spring and summer, when schools nationwide were fully closed for in-person learning. But now, as some schools re-open with a mix of virtual and in-person classes, the Agriculture Department says states must also tackle the complex job of figuring out how many days each student is not physically in school and distribute the aid to all who are spending all or part of their weeks learning virtually. That decision came the first week of September, too late for many state agencies to determine who’s eligible before the money runs out on Sept. 30.
Anti-hunger advocates worry the loss of extra payments for food will further exacerbate childhood hunger rates, which are already at the highest levels the country has seen in decades. Families who received the first tranche of payments in the spring or summer spent it almost immediately, and Census data showed that child hunger rates dropped markedly in the week after the benefits started going out in each state.