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Wyoming food, child care assistance services under pressure

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Vital social services including child care assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are experiencing growing pressures in Wyoming resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

State Department of Family Services Director Korin Schmidt told lawmakers that additional funding will likely be required to meet rising demand, The Casper Star-Tribune reported Sunday.

Schmidt told the Joint Committee on Labor, Health and Social Services that family enrollment in programs including SNAP, which provides food to needy families, experienced sharp increases between March and April that will likely continue into the summer.

Measures implemented by the United States Department of Agriculture have increased the flexibility of the SNAP program, while the office of Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon has helped organize funding to feed young people.

But a federal block grant to cover child care services is likely to run out as more individuals qualify for assistance, leaving the state to cover the anticipated $17.4 million cost to maintain the program.

Jennifer Simon, executive director of the Wyoming Women’s Action Network, said the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus have increased the difficulty of purchasing food.

“Part of what this crisis has revealed are the gaps in our current system and the degree to which our school system provided some relief for gaps in the current system — namely around food security,” Simon said. “More children than we realized got more nutrition than we realized during the school day from their schools.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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