Fallon County Times: Tester secures food assistance extension for 30 million American kids over the summer
As part of his continued efforts to ensure that every Montana kid has access to critical nutrition, U.S. Senator Jon Tester last week announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use American Rescue Plan funding to expand Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits and feed more than 30 million kids over the summer and throughout the duration of the pandemic.
Tester pushed to fund critical food assistance for children as part of the recent coronavirus relief package, especially as many Montana families have struggled with food insecurity throughout the pandemic. Under the P-EBT extension, any child who qualifies for free or reduced price meals during the school year or are under age six and live in a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) household are eligible to receive food assistance.
“The coronavirus crisis has made it more difficult for Montana families to keep food on the table, and the summer months are often the hardest because kids aren’t in school getting nutritious meals,” said Tester. “This critical program-funded by the American Rescue Plan-will help ensure that Montana kids are able to keep their bellies full, stay healthy, and continue developing throughout the rest of the pandemic, giving families some much-needed peace of mind.”
P-EBT was established in March 2020 – based on the highly successful Summer EBT pilots which began in 2011 – to provide food dollars to families to make up for meals missed when schools closed due to COVID-19. The program was set to expire on Sept. 30, 2020 and did not provide assistance during the summer months when kids are not in school. Following passage of the American Rescue Plan, the program has been extended to the summer months and benefits will be available throughout the duration of the pandemic.
The Montana Food Bank Network has praised the P-EBT extension and thanked Tester for his efforts:
“The expansion of P-EBT over the summer months is incredible news for children and families in Montana. P-EBT will have real and lasting effects on our children’s health, development, and wellbeing for years to come,” said Lorianne Burhop, Chief Policy Officer of the Montana Food Bank Network. “It has been a difficult year with increased rates of hunger and food insecurity across Montana. Investments like P-EBT are essential in helping our state recover stronger and healthier than before. We are so thankful for Senator Tester’s work on behalf of Montana families, and his support of the American Rescue Plan, making this investment in Montana kids possible.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tester has been working diligently alongside Montanans to help ensure families can keep food on the table. He pushed back against a Trump Administration decision to rip SNAP benefits away from 700,000 Americans, and he secured extended SNAP benefits for Montanans during the COVID-19 pandemic. He successfully pushed USDA to disburse $38 million in Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) purchasing funds to help Tribal communities combat food insecurity, and he secured $1.2 million for Montana food banks to provide low-income and elderly populations with access to nutrition assistance.