A federal program called Pandemic EBT has been a lifeline for many low-income families recently. But unless Congress acts, it’ll expire at the end of the month.
P-EBT, launched in March when schools across the county began to close, was designed as a substitute for free or reduced-price school lunches. Families get a debit card for groceries instead.
The need is stark. One in five households with children report difficulty getting enough food, according to surveys conducted by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
"Although it was optional, brand new and a significant undertaking, every state implemented P-EBT," said Stacey Dean, the group's vice president for food assistance policy.
Colorado, for one, has distributed less than half of the $110 million it received from the federal government through the Pandemic EBT program, as Chalkbeat Colorado recently reported.
Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine, says she's seeing more and more signs of malnourishment in children. And she's hearing from families that, by the second or third week of the month, "they’ve run out of their food budget."
"This pandemic is really going to affect a generation of kids over the next years," she said.
More than a million children in the Mountain West are eligible for the P-EBT program.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.