Child nutrition assistance program funding request moves forward after delay
Both chambers of the Idaho Legislature still need to approve $1.6M for pandemic EBT funds
Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
After back and forth with legislators over details, a funding request for $1.6 million to continue a pandemic-specific nutrition assistance program cleared the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee by a vote of 18-2.
The funding is allocated for the free and reduced lunch program that will assist approximately 71,000 students. The request first came before the committee on Monday morning but was delayed after Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, had concerns about “double counting” the budget item because the funds will be distributed from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to the Idaho State Department of Education.
Jared Tatro, principal budget and policy analyst for the Idaho Legislature, clarified the money has to be approved for both agencies. While the granted funds were awarded to Health and Welfare, the agency needs authority to sub-grant funding to the Department of Education. The Department of Education also needs approval to spend the funds.
Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, expressed concern about “how we count students in poverty,” and how the department can estimate how many of those students are “not truly in poverty.” She would like to see census data, food stamp eligibility or indicators that could better measure poverty in schools.
“I would love to see a funding formula that recognized and sent funds for students in poverty,” Horman said.
Colleen Fillmore, director of the Idaho Department of Education’s child nutrition programs, said they can estimate how many children fall under the poverty guidelines, but not data specific to each child, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not provide funding to gather that information.
Horman ultimately supported the approval of the request, but said she thinks the state needs to address that issue in the future.
The two members who voted against the request were Nate and Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird. The funding request still has to be approved by both chambers of the Legislature.
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