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HomeHealthON WIC to provide summer EBT program after state defunding

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ON WIC to provide summer EBT program after state defunding

WIC is bringing Electronic Benefit Transfer to the Osage for the first time via USDA

The State of Oklahoma has failed to provide critical funding for Oklahomans in need, by de-funding the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program administered in prior years, but the Osage Nation’s Department of Woman, Infant and Children (WIC) has stepped in to provide relief via a new Summer EBT program to resource school-aged children in need, Native and non-Native alike.

EBT is a food support program which in prior years has been offered through the state, and WIC will now administer it through the USDA’s department of Food and Nutrition Services. WIC Director Dawna R. Bowman said the USDA has already reached out to tribes to administer EBT, but she had paused on opting into the program because WIC expected the state to do so. “Then, at the last minute Stitt canceled [EBT],” said Bowman, who said his cancellation prompted the Nation to come to Oklahomans’ aid.

Fortunately, “[EBT] had already been looked into,” said Bowman of the Summer EBT program, which her office is working to roll out in summer 2024, provided the state funding comes in following WIC’s application for the federal grant. “We hope to get it, but have not yet,” confirmed an ON WIC employee.

The Summer EBT (SEBT) program is for school-aged children, and will exist in addition to all usual, ongoing WIC programs which are still operating as usual. SEBT is in addition to other WIC resources, and will tentatively be available during the months of June, July and August.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear expressed pride the tribe was filling this critical need. He said, “As soon as we got word that the State of Oklahoma declined this important funding, our team took action. … Any time we are able to support our community members, especially those in need, we are going to do it, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.”

The program promotes tribal sovereignty in that it is not just for Osages, but will be available to all who need it, based on their ability to qualify through the ON WIC Department. The Osage Communications noted in a press release the Nation will also cover administrative costs incurred by program participation, although they did not define what this means, for instance, costs such as printing, or gas spent in complying with program protocols.

With the new summer 2024 EBT program, WIC is tapping into USDA’s offerings for those in need of food and nutritional support for the first time ever, and is doing so in a streamlined response that Standing Bear characterized as “rapid.”  

By the end of January, the WIC department was still figuring out the exact plans for rolling out the EBT program, but they confirmed it will provide support for families earning up to 185 percent of the federally-defined poverty line. Such families who participate in the SEBT program will receive $40 per qualifying child, monthly, up to a total benefit of $120 per child from the months of June through August 2024.

“WIC will have information needed when it becomes available. The summer EBT grant application is currently being worked on. Once submitted, we will await notification of the award from USDA,” said Teresa Bledsoe, ON Secretary of Social Services.

Although termed the summer program, the service period will not extend through the formal end of summer in mid-September, but rather through the end of the summer school break. ON Social Services will provide further program updates and application information.

For more information, contact the WIC department at (918) 287-5360 or 1-800-460-1006. The Social Services department can be reached at (918) 287-5335 or socialservices@osagenation-nsn.gov

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Chelsea T. Hicks
Chelsea T. Hickshttps://osagenews.org
Title: Staff Reporter
Email: chelsea.hicks@osagenation-nsn.gov
Languages spoken: English
Chelsea T. Hicks’ past reporting includes work for Indian Country Today, SF Weekly, the DCist, the Alexandria Gazette-Packet, Connection Newspapers, Aviation Today, Runway Girl Network, and elsewhere. She has also written for literary outlets such as the Paris Review, Poetry, and World Literature Today. She is Wahzhazhe, of Pawhuska District, belonging to the Tsizho Washtake, and is a descendant of Ogeese Captain, Cyprian Tayrien, Rosalie Captain Chouteau, Chief Pawhuska I, and her iko Betty Elsey Hicks. Her first book, A Calm & Normal Heart, won the 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. She holds an MA from the University of California, Davis, and an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.
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