Food Assistance Program Open For Eligible Utah Students Five Months After It Was Offered Federally
Families of K-12 students in Utah are now able to receive federal assistance for school meals they missed when buildings closed earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eligible people who are part of the SNAP program or receive free or reduced lunch can now get a one-time payment of $308 as part of the federal Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer food assistance program. Utah was one of 17 states not to join the program in March when the federal government made the funds available.
Utah delayed applying for the program because the state wanted to centralize their records of who was eligible for the money, according to Department of Workforce Services Assistant Deputy Director Nate McDonald.
“In a nutshell, what we did is we made sure that we would be able to implement the program correctly, then we applied,” McDonald said Monday during a press conference.
The state is expecting to send out $50 million in aid. There are around 60,000 students part of the SNAP program who should automatically receive the money.
But the state estimates there are an additional 160,000 students who are receiving free or reduced lunch that are eligible for the program.
In Washington County, around 42% of students qualify for free lunch, according to Mike Carr, who is the homeless liaison and support services coordinator for the school district.
Carr said with federal unemployment assistance expired, these funds are that much more important.
“People’s money is going to be tight and they’ve got to choose to pay rent or utilities or food or what they will do, so hopefully this helps the overall picture of their life,” he said.
The deadline to apply for the program is August 31.
Lexi Peery is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George. Follow Lexi on Twitter @LexiFP