Thousands of Iowa students to get $279 each for food

Published: May. 28, 2020 at 10:48 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -More than 225,000 Iowa students will get $279 each to help pay for food as a replacement for free and reduced lunches they would have had at school.

The money comes from a $63 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that Congress passed in March. It allows states to use SNAP benefits, often known as food stamps, to get help to families with students who would normally get free or reduced lunches at school but missed those meals when schools shut down due to the pandemic. This is in addition to the meal deliveries and pick-up sites many school districts have offered.

The Iowa Department of Human Services is administering the Pandemic EBT program, as it is called. It still needs federal approval on the plan but expects to issue benefits in late June on SNAP debit cards to cover costs from March, April and May. Iowa is one of 15 states that have yet to begin issuing Pandemic EBT benefits, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Part of the delay is coordinating with the Department of Education to get data needed to ensure all students get the benefits, which DHS says it has still not received.

K-12th grade students of families already using SNAP would see the extra $279 deposited on their account. For families who don’t already have a SNAP card, they will receive one in the student’s name but parents will be able to use it. Those cards have restrictions on use, so parents or students could not use it to buy alcohol, vitamins, prepared foods at restaurants, pet foods and more.

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