Following the expiration of a federal summer food assistance program started during the pandemic, Anne Arundel County will spend $1.5 million to continue the program this summer as students are out of school and the free school lunch program becomes less accessible.
County Executive Steuart Pittman made the announcement Tuesday that Anne Arundel County would spend the maximum amount allowed to ensure that all recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program with children ages 5 to 17 can get an additional $100 a year of funds on their Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards — $30 in June, July and August each and $10 in December.
“It’s not a secret that the cost of food is up. Inflation is burdening, of course, the people who can afford it the least and for whom most of their income goes for basic necessities,” Pittman said during his weekly news conference. “I wish we could do more.”
The program will benefit 17,771 students, county officials said.
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, which provided food assistance to families with school-aged kids for the past three school years, will expire at the federal level following the conclusion of this school year. School ends June 24 and the program expires June 30. .
The money will be automatically loaded onto the EBT cards of eligible people when the program starts in June and no enrollment necessary, said Carnitra White, director of the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services.
“This is an added benefit on top of the SNAP benefits that families already receive,” White said.
The $1.5 million contribution is well above the $140,000 minimum the county needed to provide to opt into the program, White said. An additional $280,320 will come from the Maryland Department of Human Services’ Family Investment Administration.
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The additional assistance will not replace school summer lunches, said Bob Mosier, an Anne Arundel County Public Schools spokesperson. However, it can help families who might have difficulty getting to the distribution sites.
“There are restrictions on where distribution sites can be located and food must be consumed on site, (as opposed to home delivered to go home as in the prior two years). We are going back to pre-COVID in that regard,” Mosier said message Tuesday.
Need for food assistance has increased considerably since the pandemic began with SNAP enrollment numbers increasing by 88% compared to before the pandemic, White said.
“We know that the majority of our SNAP recipients are persons who work but they, based on their family composition, still meet the minimum requirement to receive benefits,” she said, adding that she thinks the increase in need for food assistance during the pandemic has been a result of pandemic-driven layoffs and hourly workers having their hours cut.
Of the 61,379 residents in the county who are receiving SNAP benefits in fiscal 2022, 39% of the recipients were children, White said. The average SNAP household received about $430 of benefits.