Common Good Iowa

Summer EBT - Nutritional, and smart fiscal move

Posted on January 17, 2024 at 7:13 PM by Anne Discher

Making sure low-income families can feed their kids is important whether school is in session or out. The evidence of its nutritional benefits is clear, but participating in what's known as Summer EBT — Electronic Benefit Transfer program set up by the USDA — also is a no-brainer from a fiscal point of view.

Like traditional SNAP, the benefits themselves — estimated at over $29 million dollars this year for Iowa, if we were to participate — are federal dollars. Iowa’s responsibility is for half the administrative costs, about $2.2 million for the first year.

Governor Kim Reynolds cited those administrative costs when she announced in December that Iowa would not participate.

Going forward, they say the cost would be lower.  But let’s take their higher figure: $2.2 million represents little more than one-tenth of 1 percent of what the Governor projects for a surplus in her new budget.

So cost clearly is not an issue — even less when you see the economic impact. In return for that investment, families of 240,000 Iowa kids in all corners of the state would have extra resources to put food on the table — $29 million that would quickly enter the Iowa economy.

Summer EBT is good for Iowa kids, families and the economy — and we can afford it.

You’ve probably heard that Iowa is one of about 17 states opting out of Summer EBT. But let’s flip that around: 44 states, territories and tribal nations, of all political stripes, have already announced they will participate. That includes many of our neighbors — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri.

Even states that often mirror Iowa on policies like these, like North Dakota and Arkansas, intend to participate in Summer EBT this year.

Clearly this is a program with bipartisan support.

Iowa's decision not to participate in Summer EBT is part of a disturbing trend in which Iowa's priority is holding down services. Our leaders have made it harder for people to enroll in SNAP and Medicaid, funded our schools at levels below inflation, and are now opting against Summer EBT — all making space in the budget for big tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest Iowans.

The thing about taxes and the services they fund is this: They are how we, together, lay strong foundations that create opportunity and help people thrive. For good or for bad, they reflect our state’s values.

Summer EBT should be an easy policy choice, a budget line that lays a strong foundation for Iowa children and their families. Iowa must find the same kind of bipartisan support for Summer EBT that other states have seen when their lawmakers make feeding kids a priority.

Anne Discher is executive director of Common Good Iowa.

Tagged As: Poverty, SNAP

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