On January 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was increasing the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) by roughly 15 percent in support of President Biden’s call to action on hunger. This increase will provide more money to low-income families and millions of children due to child care and school closures. Specifically, states in the contiguous U.S. will receive an increase from $5.70 per day to $6.82 per day.
Before school closures, a child might have received free or reduced-price meals at school or child care. The pandemic has disrupted every aspect of life, and thus, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) created P-EBT to assist low-income children and families.
The following states have been approved to operate a P-EBT program for the 2020-2021 school year: Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont. Still, some disparities are going unnoticed within P-EBT. Specifically, Congress excluded Puerto Rico from the initial P-EBT in March 2020, which left hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican public school children without assistance. Now, Puerto Rico has access to P-EBT, and the previous $6.84 per day will be increased to $7.97 per day. Hopefully, the tide has turned, and all states and U.S. territories will receive the assistance they need with the recent USDA updates.
States are required to describe how they will serve vulnerable groups of eligible children, such as those involved with the child welfare agency. For foster children in these states, child welfare agencies should educated foster families and groups about P-EBT, ensuring all eligible children have access to P-EBT. For a list of strategies to strengthen the process, FRAC has developed a tool for states with strategies to target specific populations accessing P-EBT.