WASHINGTON – The Biden government is expanding a program to feed up to 34 million school children during the summer months. Funds from the coronavirus aid package approved in March will be used.
The Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it will continue a payments program to replace school meals through the summer as the pandemic left many children with virtual classes. Eligible child families receive $ 6.82 per child for each day of the week. That adds up to $ 375 per child in the summer months.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack described the summer as “a unique, groundbreaking measure to reduce child hunger in the US”.
The program reflects the efforts of the Biden government to almost eradicate child poverty – an unprecedented cash boost for parents, daycare centers and schools that could renew the social safety net. Conservative critics have warned that the spending, if made permanent, could undermine poorer Americans’ willingness to work.
Stacy Dean, assistant under-secretary of state for food, nutrition and consumer services for Agriculture, said Congress had previously approved limited funding for pilot programs to test the effectiveness of payments. However, with the coronavirus aid package, it was able to be rolled out nationwide.
In addition to the food aid, the aid package enabled parents to receive around USD 250 per month for each child between the ages of 6 and 17 from July. Qualified families with one child under the age of 6 would receive $ 300 per month. The payments are part of an expanded child tax credit that would expire later this year under the terms of the latest coronavirus relief package.
President Joe Biden plans to extend monthly payments through 2025. The extension would be part of a multi-billion dollar plan that he intends to announce in a joint address to Congress on Wednesday.
Democratic lawmakers have called for the expanded tax credit to be made permanent, with Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet, Ohio Sherrod Brown and New Jersey Cory Booker as well as Connecticut Representatives Rosa DeLauro, Washington State Suzan DelBene and Ritchie Torres New York came out with a statement last week.
“Expanding child tax credits is the most important policy coming out of Washington for generations, and Congress has the historic opportunity to provide a lifeline to the middle class and permanently cut child poverty in half,” the April 20 statement said.
By the end of the school year, children have traditionally turned to other forms of food aid, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. However, government officials said summer feeding programs tend to reach less than 20% of the number served during the school year.
Children can qualify for the new summer benefit if they are eligible for free or discounted meals during the school year, or if they are younger than 6 and live in a SNAP household. Children who are already receiving SNAP will receive the benefits in addition to what they are already receiving.