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Oklahoma Advocates for Children Watching Federal Discussions on Budget, Virus Relief

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Oklahoma organizations focused on helping children in the state are watching Capitol Hill as lawmakers go back and forth on a short-term spending bill and possibly restart coronavirus relief talks.

Partnership for America’s Children Network Director Deb Stein said either could result in a renewal of the pandemic electronic benefits transfer program.

"That’s the program that allows states to give families extra SNAP benefits, or SNAP benefits if the family doesn’t otherwise qualify, for school meals that are missed because schools are closed due to the pandemic. That’s critical for keeping kids fed," Stein said.

Hunger Free Oklahoma estimates the number of kids who don’t always have enough to eat increased from one in five to one in three during the pandemic.

Stein said there’s a small chance Congress could work in an extension of the census deadline, giving households until the end of October to respond. If it stays Sept. 30, the government will be filling in some information based on data like tax returns after a single door knock, a practice that’s less accurate than households responding.

"The administrative data that they have does not include data on children that were born in January, February or March of 2020," Stein said.

There’s a better chance aid gets included in a virus relief bill to help states offset lost revenue due to the pandemic.

"If states have to cut their budgets, they could end up cutting programs that serve families and kids a lot," Stein said.

Without a short-term spending bill, the federal government will shut down at the end of the month. It currently appears hung up over farm assistance.

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