ATLANTA — The start of the new year brought a chance to have states, territories, and tribes of the United States participate in a new federal grocery program called the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer.
For the program’s 2024 launch, 35 states, all of the U.S.’s five territories, and four indigenous tribes have already notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture that they intend to use the program.
The state of Georgia is not one of them.
Under the planned program, about 21 million children would be able to receive $2.5 billion in grocery benefits, according to USDA.
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Federal officials said that number was only 70% of children who are eligible to be in the Summer EBT program.
Participating families would be able to receive $120 per child for the summer to assist with buying food at grocery stores, farmers markets or other authorized retailers, USDA said in their announcement, adding that it’s similar to how normal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits work.
“Beginning in summer 2024, families will receive $40 per eligible child, per month. These benefits work together with other available FNS nutrition assistance programs, such as summer meal sites, SNAP, and WIC, to help ensure kids have consistent access to critical nutrition when school is out,” USDA said.
The USDA said they’re making progress in closing the summer hunger gap through the program, to ensure children are receiving nourishment all year round.
“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,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, said.
The Summer EBT program, as compared to the previous pandemic-EBT program, that Georgia did participate in, is permanent rather than temporary.
Officials said that summer grocery benefits helped lower food insecurity among American children by about one-third while also supporting healthier diets.
Georgia’s lack of inclusion in the 2024 program follows recent reporting by Channel 2 Action News about issues with backlogs in the state’s SNAP backlog program.
In December, Channel 2 Action News reported federal officials had pushed the state to come back into compliance with requirements to run the food assistance program, citing a severe backlog and lack of compliance.
While the state hasn’t opted into the program this year, the door to the Summer EBT program isn’t permanently closed, according to USDA.
“This is the inaugural year of the program, meaning states and Tribes that do not launch the program this summer will have future opportunities to opt-in. USDA’s goal is for Summer EBT to be available nationwide as soon as possible. The Department is providing extensive assistance, trainings, tools and more to the states, U.S. territories and Tribes targeting a 2024 roll-out as well as to those planning for 2025 and beyond. Working with future implementers is a top priority,” USDA said in a statement.
Channel 2 Action News has reached out to the Georgia Department of Human Services and the Office of Gov. Brian Kemp to learn more about the state’s decision not to participate in the program this year. We are waiting for their response.
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