Utah To Receive $45M In Federal Funds To Feed Hungry Children, Families

Mar 29, 2021, 4:50 PM | Updated: 8:47 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The number of Utah children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from has doubled during the pandemic, but millions of dollars in federal funding for food are on the way for many of their families.

They will start to get that food assistance money as soon as Wednesday. Families will need to be patient, according to program directors. More than $45 million of Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer assistance will be available for those who qualify.

“It has been a tough year for Utah families, and the pandemic has revealed just how difficult it’s been for some families to afford enough food,” said Gina Cornia, executive director of Utahns Against Hunger.

Congress created the Pandemic-EBT food assistance program as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It provided millions of dollars in food assistance that will be sent to families of children signed up through their schools to receive free or reduced-price school lunches.

“Payments will be retroactive to the beginning of the entire 2021 school year, and they will be sent out in lump sums over the next several months,” said Muris Prses with the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Families who qualify for P-EBT are those with children who temporarily lost access to the lunch program through pandemic-related school closures during this school year. That’s for any school that closed for five or more consecutive days, as well as schools that met virtually.

“We ask that schools and parents be patient, as we roll this out since it is a difficult process in gathering this data and sorting through to make sure all of our students receive the benefits that they need,” said Kathleen Britton with the Utah State Board of Education.

To receive the benefit, students must be signed up for free or reduced-price school meals.

Last February, according to Utahns Against Hunger, one in 12 Utah families struggled to afford enough food. By February 2021, that number had spiked to one in five Utah families. For households with children and communities of color, those rates are even higher.

“This is why programs like Pandemic-EBT are so important,” said Cornia. “It gives families additional resources to ensure they can purchase food that they need.”

Parents have until May 10 to sign up through their schools to receive a payment for this school year. If a family is receiving SNAP and they qualify, they will automatically see benefits added to their SNAP EBT card.

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Utah To Receive $45M In Federal Funds To Feed Hungry Children, Families