Fifteen Republican-led states decided not to partake in a new program that provides expanded benefits for groceries for children over the summer.
Many of the officials in those states either said that they didn’t need the new funds, or that they didn’t have the ability to actually run and oversee the program.
The new program, called the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer, was launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s the first iteration of a new permanent grocery program aimed at helping children in need.
States that opt into the program can give families who are eligible $40 each month for each of their children. Congress originally approved the program in 2022.
As Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, explained:
“Summer grocery benefits are becoming a reality for many communities across the nation and for tens of millions of children who will receive the nutrition they need to grow, learn and thrive.”
According to the USDA, 35 states, four Native American tribes and five territories opted to be part of the new program. According to the agency, the program covers about 70% of all eligible children in the first launch, with the hopes that it will expand over the next few years.
The Republican-led states that decided not to participate in the program are Wyoming, Vermont, Texas, South Dakota, South Carolina, Nebraska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Idaho, Iowa, Georgia, Florida, Alaska and Alabama.
Kim Reynolds, the Republican governor of Iowa, said her state didn’t need the funds from the program. She added that grocery benefits for children shouldn’t be expanded because of how high the rates of obesity are for young kids.
In a statement, she explained:
“Federal COVID-era cash benefit programs are not sustainable and don’t provide long-term solutions for the issues impacting children and families. An EBT card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.”
If the federal government actually wants to help “family well-being,” Reynolds said it should “invest in already existing programs and infrastructure at the state level and give us the flexibility to tailor them to our state’s needs.”
In Nebraska, Republican Governor Jim Pillen said his state already had plenty of summer nutrition programs that are focused on children.
In a statement, he commented:
“COVID-19 is over and Nebraska taxpayers expect that pandemic-era government relief programs will end, too.
“To be clear, this does not mean that hungry kids will lose access to summer nutrition programs. Nebraska continues to participate in the existing USDA Summer Food Services Program (SFSB), which best ensures access to nutritious food options and protective services to children who are in need.”
Some people may immediately jump on these Republican states and criticize them for turning down money to help children who are in need. However, read between the lines, and you will see that they are being financially-prudent with the federal government’s money, as many of them believe this new program is redundant and not necessary.