Last updated May 29, 2020
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, children experienced varying rates of family poverty and food insecurity, which has been further jeopardized by the public health crisis. The latest Kentucky KIDS COUNT data show that over 1 in 10 Kentucky children lived in deep poverty and nearly 1 in 5 in a food insecure households. Expanding access to food, housing, and other assistance programs and extending these after the public health emergency is lifted will provide critical financial support to families and ensure children have access to a safe place to live and nutritious food, supporting their health and development.
Ensure Access to Food Assistance
As Kentuckians are balancing changes to their schools, child care, and income, supplemental assistance for nutritious food is critical for families. Two essential programs for children are the Supplemental Food Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which help families bridge the gap, gain access to needed food assistance, and ensure new mothers and their babies are able to access adequate nutrition.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved several waivers for SNAP and WIC to ensure access to adequate nutrition for children and families across the country during the COVID-19:
- In Kentucky, changes have been approved to allow for an easier application and approval process for the SNAP and WIC programs. These changes allow for fewer in-person meetings/interviews, extensions on recertification periods, and reduced paperwork/documentation.
- In addition to simplifying the enrollment process, through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Kentucky has received emergency allotments for existing SNAP recipients for the months of April and May 2020. Also, included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a temporary suspension of the SNAP program’s work requirements until the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration by the Secretary of Health and Human Services is lifted.
- The USDA approved a blanket waiver for several states, including Kentucky, to have flexibility on
the time frame for Fair Hearings on SNAP cases, allowing for an extension of 120 days on existing requests and new requests made from March 1 through May 31, 2020.
- WIC approved waivers allow flexibility for families during this uncertain time. For example, those receiving WIC benefits in Kentucky may be able to substitute certain items when purchasing food if the approved brand and package size is not available due to low inventory.
Families may also be able to access food assistance through Kentucky food banks. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture approved an increase in the income level to qualify from 130 to 185 percent for the duration of the state of emergency, allowing more families to access this assistance.
Additionally, Kentucky has been approved for Pandemic-EBT benefits, which will allow households with children who are eligible to receive free/reduced lunch at school to receive additional cash benefits for food purchases on an EBT card. These benefits will first be available to those who are currently receiving SNAP benefits on their EBT card. Then, cards will be sent to those who receive Medicaid/KTAP for their children. Lastly, those not currently receiving any benefits will be able to request their P-EBT allotment in June. Learn more about P-EBT and how to apply.
As federal and state level discussions continue about supporting the food security of Kentucky families, there are a number of investments and actions needed:
- Kentucky Youth Advocates and our partners request a national 15% Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase. We encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine the dollar amounts needed to make supporting families and children a top priority during the COVID health crisis, enabling them to keep food on the table.
- National and state organizations are advocating to extend Child Nutrition Program Response and School and Summer Food Service Program waivers to ensure meal services are continued for children throughout the summer, and until schools reopen.
View our COVID-19 and Kentucky Kids webpage to stay up-to-date on ongoing advocacy efforts.