Pandemic EBT to Feed Children during COVID-19 National Emergency
News Release, U.S. Department of Agriculture
(Washington, D.C., April 28, 2020)– U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced Maryland and New Mexico have been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed by President Trump, which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures.
Maryland and New Mexico will be able to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school.
For the 2019-2020 school year, Maryland had approximately 431,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or nearly 45% of children in participating schools. For the 2019-2020 school year, New Mexico had approximately 262,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or about 82% of children in participating schools.
Under FFCRA, States have the option to submit a plan to the Secretary of Agriculture for providing these benefits to SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. State agencies may operate Pandemic EBT when a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session.
The implementation of Pandemic EBT is in line with USDA’s commitment to keep Americans safe, secure, and healthy during this national emergency and to keep kids fed when schools are closed. USDA is working with states and local authorities to ensure schools and other program operators can continue to feed children. This latest action complements previously-announced flexibilities for the Child Nutrition programs that:
- Allow parents and guardians topick up mealsto bring home to their kids;
- Temporarily waivemeal times requirementsto make it easier to pick up multiple-days’ worth of meals at once;
- Allow meals be served innon-congregate settingsto support social distancing;
- Waive the requirement thatafterschool meals and snacksserved through certain programs be accompanied by educational activities to minimize exposure to the novel coronavirus; and
- Allow states, on an individual state-by-state basis, to serve free meals to children inallareas, rather than only those in areas where at least half of students receive free or reduced-price meals.
Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of actions that USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has taken to uphold the USDA’s commitment to “Do Right and Feed Everyone” during this national emergency. Other actions include:
- Launching a newcoronavirus webpageto proactively inform the public about USDA’s efforts to keep children and families fed;
- Providing more thanone million meals a weekthrough public-private partnershipMeals to You;
- Increasing access toonline purchasingby expanding the online purchasing pilot to more than half of all SNAP households;
- Debuting “Meals for Kids” interactive site finder – to help families find meals for children while schools are closed across more than 38,000 locations;
- Allowing states to issueemergency supplemental SNAP benefitstotaling more than$2 billion per monthto increase recipients’ purchasing power;
- Collecting solutions to feeding children impacted firstname.lastname@example.org; and
- Providing more than 1,500administrative flexibilitiesin the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to allow for social distancing.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers15 nutrition assistance programsthat leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops theDietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.