Iowa and Nebraska Choose Not to Participate in Summer EBT Program for Children

Iowa and Nebraska announced withdrawal from the 2024 Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for Children, citing concerns regarding the long-term sustainability of federal cash benefit programs, and raising doubts about whether giving EBT cards to parents would encourage sound nutritional habits among children.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said that the decision not to participate in the program was also prompted by concerns about the growing childhood obesity epidemic. Reynolds stressed that existing programs and infrastructure at the state level must be bolstered and allowed flexibility to tailor them to meet the unique needs and challenges of the state.

In the absence of the Summer EBT program, Iowa’s Department of Health and Human Services is exploring other options to address family well-being and children’s health in the state while relying on existing programs.

Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen, who shares Reynolds’ vocal opposition to the EBT program, emphasized the importance of finding ways to engage kids in the community rather than providing for them through welfare. Pillen believes the biggest challenge of the EBT program is interrupting children’s outdoor activities, expressing confidence that the children’s needs can be met with programs other than EBT.

The EBT program, which aimed to provide children with food purchasing power during the summer when the children are not in school, was designed to give $40 in EBT credit monthly to each eligible child. The summer EBT program was later permanently authorized by the Biden administration and Congress earlier this year. The state is required to cover half of the administrative costs associated with the program.

In both Iowa and Nebraska, there are currently existing programs designed to provide children from low-income families with enough food and nutrition throughout the year. The officials from both states expressed concerns on the impact of the Summer EBT program on children’s outdoor activities and raising obesity rates heard.

The statement from the Iowa Governor raised concerns about the alarming increase in childhood obesity and other diet-related health issues in the state. Considering the childhood obesity implications, both states emerged with their decisions to pull out from the program.

Furthermore, the Foundation for Government Accountability disclosed that more than 66,000 people stayed on food stamp rolls even after winning substantial amounts in lotteries, making them technically ineligible for the benefits by federal law. The FGA is urging Congress to act to prevent such abuses in the future.

The decision by Iowa and Nebraska to withdraw from the 2024 Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children has reignited debate over the long-term effectiveness of welfare programs—as well as the broader challenge of tackling childhood obesity. While the battle lines may seem settled for now, the issue of hunger in the nation continues to evoke spirited debate and demands for improved initiatives for children and families in need.


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