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Colorado families are leaving $58 million in federal food aid on the table. Time is running out to apply.

Most school districts set up meal programs during school closures, but a Chalkbeat analysis found they served just a fraction of the meals they normally would provide to children living in poverty

As his principal, Shayley Levensalor, left, watches, Elijah Kirkland, 7, arrives with his older siblings and along with their breakfast bags, he is invited to take an extra bag of canned foods that the school has on hand. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The families of more than 200,000 Colorado children could miss out on hundreds of dollars in food assistance if they don’t act soon — and many of them don’t even know they’re eligible.

Colorado has distributed less than half of the $110 million it received from the federal government through the Pandemic EBT program, and the deadline to get the money to parents and guardians is the end of the month. Families have to get their applications in by Sept. 23 to allow for processing.

Whatever isn’t given out by the end of the month — possibly as much as $58 million — will go back to the federal government rather than being spent at local grocery stores to feed hungry children, advocates said.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

“It means that money is left on the table,” said Stephanie Perez-Carillo, policy and partnerships manager for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “It’s relief that’s available but that is going unused.”

Approved by Congress in March as part of the Families First Act, Pandemic EBT gives cash to families whose children qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches to make up for the meals their children didn’t get when schools were closed in the spring. In Colorado, eligible families can get $279 per child, $5.70 for each of 49 days of school closure.

Families can get the benefit even if they also got meals from school-based grab-and-go sites. They can also get the benefit if they didn’t previously qualify for subsidized lunches but have lost a job and now have less income. Immigrant families are eligible as well.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

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