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Summer EBT program will now be permanent, as long as NV applies

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Summer EBT program will now be permanent, as long as NV applies

Dec 01, 2023 | 11:33 am ET
By Jeniffer Solis
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Summer EBT program will now be permanent, as long as NV applies
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If approved, Nevada households will begin receiving the benefits by the summer of 2024. So far, 14 states and two tribal nations have signed onto the program. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

During the pandemic, children in Nevada benefited from a popular free food program that fed kids during school closures and summer vacation. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering a similar program, Summer EBT, on a permanent basis.

The new permanent summer nutrition assistance program for children, known as Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer, would provide families with $40 each summer month per eligible child to buy food at grocery stores, farmers markets, or other authorized retailers.

Nevada has not yet submitted a state plan to join the program, but officials at the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services say the state plans to apply, and are on track to submit a plan by the Jan. 1 deadline.

If approved, Nevada households will begin receiving the benefits by the summer of 2024. So far, 14 states and two tribal nations have signed onto the program.

Summer EBT works similarly to the existing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Children who qualify for free- or reduced-price meals at schools will automatically be eligible for the Summer EBT benefits, according to the USDA. Children living in households participating in other income-based federal assistance programs, like SNAP, will also be eligible for the summer benefits.

Rigorous evaluations of demonstration projects in select states and tribal nations over multiple years showed that additional summer benefits decreased the number of kids with very low food security by about one-third and supported healthier diets.

And in late 2022, Congress passed bipartisan legislation, making Summer EBT permanent for states that opt-in to the first new federal nutrition program in decades.

“Summer EBT provides an unprecedented opportunity to reduce child hunger during the summer months,” said Cindy Long, administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. “We look forward to working with all states and eligible tribal nations on this important effort — helping ensure children across our nation get the nutrition they need year-round.”

The program also works as an extension of the popular Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer, or P-EBT, program that fed kids who were unable to access free- or reduced-price meals at schools during the COVID shutdown. That program was shuttered in early 2022.

During the time Nevada received P-EBT funding, the state distributed more than $490 million in benefits to more than 300,000 children, according to the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services.

P-EBT saw heavy public participation in Nevada because it didn’t require parents to apply, making it “a very low burden to families,” according to Long. 

Roughly one in five children in Nevada were food insecure in 2022, meaning they struggled to afford enough food for an active, healthy life year-round.

“Many children in the United States face food insecurities and unfortunately, Nevada is no different,” said Kristle Muessle, a public information officer for the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, which is responsible for administering state assistance programs. 

In Clark County, the most populous county in Nevada, three out of four school children were on free or reduced lunch as of 2022, according to the Clark County School District.

Decades of data show that food insecurity is typically higher in households with children than without, and for those with members of color, than for white households.

About 12% of Nevadans of all ages experienced food insecurity in 2022 — higher than the national average, according to the USDA.

In Nevada, the number of new SNAP applications has remained static over the past three months, said Muessle. However, she added that the number of SNAP recipients has increased due to more people renewing their benefits compared to the same period last year. 

The Summer EBT is entirely federally funded, but states are responsible for covering half of all administrative costs for the program, meaning the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services will need to obtain legislative support and funding.

Millions of children participate in USDA’s school breakfast and lunch programs during the school year, but when schools are closed, kids lose access to those healthy meals and are at higher risk of food and nutrition insecurity. 

Once implemented nationwide, Summer EBT is expected to benefit more than 29 million children, reducing food insecurity for the nation’s most vulnerable households.

Summer EBT is meant as an additional benefit and does not replace  other federal programs that connect eligible children with food assistance during the summer months, including group meal service at central locations and grab-n-go or home-delivered meals in rural communities.