Jun 28, 2023 - News

Scoop: Iowa reverses course on federal food aid

Illustration of an open tin can with a hundred dollar bill on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Iowa, which had planned to snub $29 million in federal food aid, has apparently reversed course.

Driving the news: Alex Carfrae, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services, told Axios late Tuesday that Iowa will apply for the federal grant after all.

Why it matters: The grant is worth an estimated $29 million, or $120 per child, for thousands of low-income families with kids in Iowa, according to Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) estimates provided to Axios.

Yes, but: Earlier this month the state planned to skip the application, according to an email obtained by Axios that was written by another HHS official to a member of the Iowa Hunger Coalition.

Catch up fast: The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) launched in 2020 under President Trump.

  • Children who would have received free or reduced-price school meals in the most recently completed school year remain eligible for the summertime assistance under an extension signed into law by President Biden.

State of play: The deadline for states to apply is July 14.

  • Iowa was one of nine states that had not submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a June 9 report published by FRAC.

What's happening: Advocates of low-income families had for weeks lobbied Iowa to apply, Luke Elzinga, chairman of the Iowa Hunger Coalition, tells Axios.

  • 41 organizations had signed a letter to Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa HHS director Kelly Garcia that was to be publicly released today urging them to reconsider their decision not to submit a plan.

What they're saying: Raising awareness about the need for the assistance likely influenced the decision, Elzinga said late Tuesday.

  • Carfrae did not respond to Axios' questions about why the state changed course but said Iowa will work with federal officials to improve the grant's "burdensome administrative process."

Zoom in: Montana officials cited administrative hurdles this month in announcing it would not seek the grant.

  • And Missouri this month began distributing last summer's allocations, which were delayed because of data issues, per the Missouri Independent.

Of note: Iowa rejected, forfeited or did not apply for more than $200 million in other federal initiatives in the past year.


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