Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), along with 19 of her colleagues, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to continue utilizing existing flexibilities that have allowed students to access much needed school meals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In Maine, 82,000 children rely on free and reduced-priced lunch programs during the school year, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated food needs across the State.
“We appreciate USDA’s use of child nutrition program waiver authority, flexibility provided, and work with state agencies, schools and non-school sponsoring organizations to provide meals through various child nutrition programs when schools were unexpectedly closed in the spring,” the Senators wrote. “We also applaud the extension of these flexibilities through the summer months.”
“Many schools and families are currently determining their plans for the upcoming school year, including plans for school meals,” the Senators continued. “We ask you and the USDA team to continue utilizing child nutrition program waivers that Congress provided in a manner consistent with existing authorities and program objectives.”
In addition to Senator Collins, the letter was signed by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Charles Grassley (R-IA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), James Inhofe (R-OK), James Lankford (R-OK), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and John Thune (R-SD).
In March, all four members of Maine’s Congressional Delegation wrote USDA in support of eligibility flexibility that is critical to maintaining children’s access to meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, the Delegation wrote USDA Secretary Perdue again to express their full support for a request by the Maine Department of Education for a waiver extension, which was successfully extended through the end of the summer.
Earlier this month, Senators Collins and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) led a letter that was signed by 34 of their colleagues to urge the USDA to continue these flexibilities throughout the 2020-2021 school year. If these flexibilities are extended past the end of summer, children would maintain access regardless of school opening status, and struggling school nutrition programs would benefit from additional financial relief.
Click HERE to read the full letter.