The Republican-dominated Senate in late March rejected House Bill 1491 by a single vote. The legislation, which had previously passed the House, would have dedicated $6 million over the next two school years to cover lunch costs for K-12 students with family incomes below double the federal poverty level. Children from families of four making less than $60,000 a year would have qualified.
A federal program already provides free meals to students from families making below 130% of the federal poverty level, so the state allocation nixed by senators would have applied to kids with family incomes between 130-200% of the poverty level.
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If Gov. Doug Burgum signs the bill, state employees could collect up to $45 a day to pay for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s a hike of nearly 29% on the current reimbursement rate of $35. The added cost to the state would be nearly $1 million over the next two-year budget cycle.
✱Assistant Majority Leader Jerry Klein, said he doesn’t think there’s “any correlation whatsoever” between the two bills, noting that lawmakers have to “treat each issue separately.”
✱Democrat Assistant House Minority Leader Zac Ista said, “I think it shows (the Senate’s) priorities are a little out of whack when they have no problem increasing the meal reimbursement rate for ourselves but not for those families that may be struggling to make ends meet.”