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Arizona families to benefit from $1.4 billion to help with food, child care
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Arizona families to benefit from $1.4 billion to help with food, child care

Over half a million Arizona children whose families are receiving food assistance will soon get additional funding to help offset pandemic hardships.

Over half a million Arizona children whose families are receiving food assistance will soon get additional funding to help offset pandemic hardships.

More than $636 million will be distributed to approximately 765,000 children across the state, the Arizona Department of Economic Security and the Arizona Department of Education said Monday. This follows an initial $200.8 million provided through the program in the summer of 2020.

The news follows the American Rescue Plan passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Biden last week that will expand child tax credit for 112,000 Arizona children, benefiting 1.5 million children here overall, the Arizona Children’s Action Alliance reports.

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In addition to the expansion of the child tax credit, the child care relief package will provide $780 million to expand child care assistance statewide.

“This landmark legislation will greatly improve the well-being of Arizona’s children — through expanded child care assistance, resources so schools can reopen safely, more affordable health coverage, and aggressive measures to combat child poverty,” said David Lujan, interim president of the Children’s Action Alliance, a family and child advocacy non-profit based in Phoenix.

Nationwide, the American Rescue Plan includes $39 billion in child care funding with $24 billion going to a child care stabilization fund and $15 billion going toward emergency funds for the Child Care and Development Block Grant.

The relief funds can be used to make child care in Arizona more affordable, pay educators, expand eligibility for more children and support programming, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The food assistance funds announced this week will go to Arizona households with eligible children who meet one of the two following criteria:

  • The child is enrolled in the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act program in Arizona whose school is either closed or offering a full-time or part-time distance learning model due to the COVID-19 pandemic; or
  • The child is under the age of 6 and already receiving nutrition assistance.

“The $200 million we were able to distribute last year when the pandemic EBT, or electronic benefit transfer, program was established made an incredible impact on Arizona families,” said Michael Wisehart, director of the state’s DES.

“The inclusion of children under 6 enrolled in SNAP will help ensure all families in need of assistance are able to support the nutrition of their children.”

Households do not need to apply for the benefits.

The Pandemic EBT program was first created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, while this announcement follows the program’s amendment by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act., said Brett Bezio, deputy press secretary with DES.

Households do not need to apply for the benefits. The benefits will be added to the existing card of eligible families issued a pandemic electronic benefits card in 2020 or who are receiving nutrition or cash assistance. Otherwise, eligible families will receive a pre-loaded electronic benefits transfer card that can be used to purchase groceries.

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at pmachelor@tucson.com or 806-7754. On Twitter: @pattymachstar


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