P-EBT Expended During COVID-19 Pandemic
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced efforts to expand nutrition assistance to families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The USDA is increasing the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) benefits by 15%, which provides more money for low-income families and children missing meals due to school closures. This increase supports President Biden’s Call-to-Action on Hunger and authorities provided by Congress.
“Of all the issues we face in this country, to me, hunger is the most solvable,” said Billy Shore, the founder and executive chairman of Share Our Strength, which works to end childhood hunger in the United States, told The New York Times. “We are so focused on shortages of vaccines or tests. There is no shortage of food in the country or food programs. I think it’s a moment of enormous opportunity.”
In March 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which founded the P-EBT. P-EBT connects low-income families with children with food dollars equivalent to the value of the meals missed due to COVID-related school and childcare closures. Since the program began, it has limited P-EBT benefit amounts at $5.86 per child, per school day. This amount is not sufficient to meet needs, and some families had trouble claiming the benefits. Because of this, the USDA will increase the current daily benefit amount by approximately 15% to tackle child food insecurity.
“As soon as the President took office, he called for immediate action on the hunger crisis gripping vulnerable families and children. The announcement today provides more food dollars directly to food-insecure kids living in low-income households who are missing critical meals due to school closures,” said Stacy Dean, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, in a press release.
The USDA also announced they will work with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the authority of states to provide extra Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through Emergency Allotments to the lowest-income households. A recent USDA study found that in a slow economy, $1 billion in new SNAP benefits would lead to an increase of $1.54 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The study also found that SNAP benefits reduced the poverty rate by 8% in 2009 and had a significant impact on child poverty. Additionally, the USDA will begin the process of revising the Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for determining SNAP benefits, to better reflect the cost of a healthy basic diet.