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Congressional Inaction Exacerbates Hardship

Effective Tools Are Available and Should Be Used

September 14, 2020
BY

Stacy Dean, Crystal FitzSimons, Zoë Neuberger, Dottie Rosenbaum, and Etienne Melcher Philbin [1]

As evidence of profound hardship resulting from the COVID-19 health and economic crises mounts, powerful tools to mitigate suffering and bolster economic activity will be unavailable to state and local government without congressional action. A prime example is Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) — a new program, enacted in March 2020 and set to expire at the end of September 2020, that gives families benefits they can use to buy groceries to replace the free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches their children missed while schools were closed due to the pandemic in the 2019-2020 school year.[2] Although it was optional, every state implemented P-EBT, providing families with school-age children benefits ranging from approximately $250 to $450 per child to replace meals missed during the spring.

"Extending P-EBT in combination with other measures to provide additional food assistance, increase income, and stabilize housing would provide ongoing, needed relief."

Extending P-EBT in combination with other measures to provide additional food assistance, increase income, and stabilize housing would provide ongoing, needed relief. But congressional inaction has stymied P-EBT’s extension and other federal supports that would mitigate hardship, including:

  • Providing a temporary 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits, akin to a 2009 increase that helped lessen food insecurity (the lack of consistent access to nutritious food because of limited resources) during the Great Recession.[3]
  • Extending the federal supplement to unemployment benefits through January 2021 along with policies that expand eligibility and increase the number of weeks that unemployed workers can receive benefits.[4]
  • Providing assistance to meet the housing needs of people with low incomes, including funding for Housing Choice Vouchers targeted to people with the lowest incomes and highest long-term housing needs; rental assistance funding to prevent evictions once federal, state, and local moratoriums end; funding for existing federal rental assistance programs to protect current recipients; and additional funding for homeless services programs to ensure people are safe during the pandemic.[5]

Hardship is falling disproportionately on Black and Latino families as a result of longstanding inequities and structural racism, so programs that mitigate hardship would especially help these households.

Families of Millions of Children Are Struggling to Afford Rent and Food[6]

Tens of millions of people are out of work and struggling to afford adequate food and pay the rent, data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Labor show. The impacts of the pandemic and the economic fallout have been widespread, but are particularly prevalent among Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant households. These disproportionate impacts reflect harsh, longstanding inequities — often stemming from structural racism — in education, employment, housing, and health care that the current crisis is exacerbating.

More than 23 million people who want to be working are jobless or working reduced hours.[7] Moreover, the majority of jobs lost in the crisis have been in industries that pay low average wages. The resulting loss of income is making it harder for families to afford basics like housing and food.

Renters who are parents or otherwise live with children are nearly twice as likely to be behind on rent compared to adults not living with anyone under age 18. Approximately 8 million children lived in a household that was behind on rent for the week ending July 21.

In addition, 11 to 20 percent of adults with children reported that their children sometimes or often didn’t eat enough in the last seven days because they couldn’t afford it, well above the pre-pandemic figure. This translates into an estimated 9 to 17 million children who live in a household in which the children were not eating enough because the household couldn’t afford it. More than two-thirds of those children (70 percent) were enrolled in school. Appendix Table 1 shows state-by-state estimates of the low end of our estimated range of children who live in a household in which the children were not eating enough because the household couldn’t afford it.

These data illustrate that households with children are facing especially high hardship rates, which research has shown can have serious detrimental effects on children’s long-term health and financial security. In the short run, parents are reporting worsening mental health for themselves[8] and worsening behavioral health for their children,[9] in tandem with worsening material hardship. Approximately 19 million children, or 1 in 4 children, live in a household that isn’t getting enough to eat, is behind on rent or mortgage payments, or both.

These levels of hardship are substantially higher among Black and Latino children, reflecting longstanding inequities that the current crisis has exacerbated; 42 percent of Black children and 36 percent of Latino children live in a household that’s behind on rent or mortgage and/or didn’t get enough to eat. Appendix tables 2 and 3 show state-by-state estimates by race of children who live in households below 130 percent of the federal poverty line and 185 percent of the federal poverty line, the income limits for free and reduced-price meals respectively. These children would benefit from extending P-EBT and other benefits that alleviate hardship.

Notably, these hardship data predate the expiration of the $600 weekly supplemental Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation on July 31, but key measures of hardship were already rising in mid-July. Future hardship trends will depend on several factors including the incidence of COVID-19 and the status of the job market. Congress could mitigate hardship by providing additional assistance through proven programs.

Pandemic EBT’s Successful Implementation Gives Reason to Extend the Program

The concept of P-EBT is simple: while schools are closed, provide to families with children approved for free or reduced-price meals the funds that otherwise would have gone to schools to provide them with breakfast and lunch. But this was an entirely new program requiring cross-agency collaboration, data matching, and mailing benefit cards to millions of families, all while schools were closed and state agencies were operating remotely and helping low-income families cope with the pandemic in multiple other ways.

Yet every single state developed a mechanism to get benefits to more than half of all school-age children in the country in a matter of weeks or months.[10] Over the past couple of months, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Food Research & Action Center have surveyed and interviewed state officials to document how they implemented P-EBT. As is evident in the profiles we developed of each state’s program, our compilation of state materials, and the state-by-state summary of implementation plans in Appendix tables 4 and 5, implementation took tremendous effort, creativity, and agility by state officials and other stakeholders.[11]

 

P-EBT Reduced Children’s Food Hardship

State efforts paid off. Researchers at the Brookings Institution used the variation in when states issued P-EBT benefits to SNAP recipients to examine the impact of those benefits on food hardship.[12] They found that P-EBT reduced food hardship faced by the lowest-income children by 30 percent in the week following its disbursement and lifted an estimated 2.7 to 3.9 million children out of hunger.[13]

Despite these striking findings, food hardship among children and their families remained high even after P-EBT benefits were issued, which shows the severity of hardship families are facing and that extending P-EBT alone is not sufficient. But extending P-EBT in combination with other measures to increase income, stabilize housing, and provide additional food assistance would provide relief on a more ongoing basis.

States Are Prepared to Offer P-EBT Again

This new initiative required states to hastily design and implement a program to deliver substantial benefits to millions of families quickly at a time of enormous need. To deliver benefits, states had to develop a new infrastructure, which typically entailed multiple steps. They had to build a statewide list of children approved for free or reduced-price meals, sometimes drawing on data maintained by hundreds of school districts. They matched student data against SNAP data to issue benefits on existing cards to eligible families that were already receiving SNAP benefits. They identified current mailing addresses for other eligible families to mail them new cards. Some states collected address information directly from families via a new application. States took additional steps to reach groups especially likely to be experiencing additional hardship, such as families that were homeless when the pandemic hit. Meanwhile, states had to explain the new program to school districts, county SNAP offices, and families, and establish call centers or web-based systems to respond to inquiries from families or troubleshoot when eligible children didn’t receive benefits.

Outside of a pandemic, states and school districts might have spent more time debating their ability to implement a P-EBT program. Discussions about costs and responsibility might have slowed the process. But in every state, leaders responsible for ensuring schoolchildren’s access to healthy food — both through school food programs and SNAP — resolved tough implementation challenges and jurisdictional issues to launch P-EBT. This is a remarkable achievement and demonstrates that we can continue this fall to meet the food needs of children who are learning virtually.

Having implemented the program for the 2019-2020 school year, states have the structure in place to deliver benefits again for the 2020-2021 school year, during which many schools are offering virtual instruction to some or all students as a result of COVID-19. To be sure, states encountered challenges and learned lessons in the spring, and schools are operating under more complicated schedules of in-person and virtual learning than they were in the spring. But states are now well-positioned to offer benefits for the 2020-2021 school year for as long as some students are not able to return to school buildings.

Legislation Extending P-EBT Is Needed

The original P-EBT authority extends to September 30, allowing approved states to provide benefits for the early weeks of the new school year. The Department of Agriculture, which oversees P-EBT, has notified states that they can submit a plan for approval to offer benefits through September.[14] However, the program expires in just a few weeks — even though many school districts have already announced that some or all students will be learning virtually long past September 30.[15]

To address this gap, the next COVID-19 relief package should extend and expand P-EBT benefits through fiscal year 2021 to mitigate children’s food hardship, ease the budgets of millions of families that have lost income, and infuse local economies with additional spending. Without such an extension, states will be deprived of a proven tool to help families struggling with severe hardship. Further, such an extension is needed quickly to provide states the opportunity to develop plans for issuing new benefits before the current authority runs out and to reduce the gap between when school meals are missed and when benefits arrive.

The P-EBT rules quickly adopted in March need to be updated to facilitate administration and access in light of the various ways that schools are operating in the 2020-2021 school year. Some schools are open fully for in-person instruction, allowing students to receive school breakfast and lunch each school day and eliminating the need for P-EBT benefits. Other schools are using a full virtual-instruction model. Still others are using a hybrid approach, providing in-person instruction to some students some of the time while offering virtual instruction for students at higher health risk or to create enough space in the building for social distancing, limiting access to school meals.

P-EBT benefits are a critical way to help prevent children from going hungry when they can’t consistently get meals at school. P-EBT benefits would also help ensure that decisions about whether to keep schools open are driven by public health considerations around COVID, rather than by a concern that children will go hungry. School districts worked valiantly to provide grab-and-go meals in the spring and are likely to do so again, but those programs reached only a fraction of the children who would have received free or reduced-price school meals if schools had been open. Picking up several days of prepared meals might not be feasible for working parents, or families living in rural areas or otherwise a long distance from the school pickup site, and might not be advisable for those at higher health risk.[16] States need the flexibility to ensure that children who are not consistently getting meals at school receive P-EBT without having to determine each child’s school schedule.

P-EBT also must be expanded to two groups who were left out. P-EBT should be extended to Puerto Rico, which operates the federal school meals programs on the same basis as the states but was inadvertently left out, resulting in close to 300,000 children in Puerto Rico’s public schools missing out on P-EBT benefits.[17]

P-EBT should also be extended to low-income children who are too young to be enrolled in public school. Families with young children, including infants and toddlers, are disproportionately represented among those that haven’t received a SNAP benefit increase during the pandemic because they were already poor enough to receive the maximum SNAP benefit. As a result, families with young children who were receiving free or reduced-price meals in child care might actually be receiving less food assistance now than they were before the pandemic.

The House-passed Heroes Act would extend P-EBT through 2021, allow Puerto Rico to offer P-EBT if feasible, and allow states to provide benefits to younger low-income children.[18] Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced two coronavirus relief packages, the HEALS proposal and a narrower relief package. Neither of these includes any nutrition assistance provisions, such as an extension or expansion of the P-EBT program or enhanced SNAP benefits, to help struggling households afford food. Neither package has advanced in the Senate, with the HEALS proposal not being considered and the narrower relief package failing to advance on a procedural vote.

As Congress and the Administration negotiate a bipartisan relief package, they must address this omission and extend and expand the P-EBT program, while making technical changes to facilitate implementation in school districts offering a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning.

Conclusion

Although sobering data about the suffering caused by the health and economic crises associated with COVID-19 continues to emerge, there are proven mechanisms to reduce hardship. P-EBT is a striking example because states had to develop a new program swiftly under difficult circumstances; although P-EBT was optional, every single state implemented it. With the support of the federal government, states and school districts helped millions of families meet their food needs. This proven solution can continue to play this role so long as schools are offering virtual learning.

P-EBT is just one example of how federal COVID-19 relief effectively helped families with low incomes before the pandemic or that lost income as a result. Other effective mechanisms include increasing SNAP and unemployment benefits, providing additional rental assistance, and helping people currently experiencing homelessness.

Congress must act now to deploy much-needed help to millions of struggling Americans. Every day that Congress fails to act, it fails families that are scraping together rent to avoid eviction and children who are not getting enough to eat, including children in Black and Latino families who are disproportionately suffering the health and economic consequences of the pandemic. Congress must give states effective tools to mitigate hardship.

Appendix

APPENDIX TABLE 1
Number of schoolchildren in households with children where the household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last 7 days and children sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat because the adults couldn’t afford enough food
State  
Alabama 114,500
Alaska 12,500
Arizona 132,200
Arkansas 74,100
California 657,700
Colorado 51,200
Connecticut 52,200
Delaware 14,900
District of Columbia 17,600
Florida 353,500
Georgia 247,100
Hawai’i 23,400
Idaho 33,000
Illinois 237,300
Indiana 115,800
Iowa 34,700
Kansas 32,300
Kentucky 79,300
Louisiana 136,800
Maine 14,900
Maryland 102,400
Massachusetts 69,800
Michigan 186,500
Minnesota 82,400
Mississippi 87,000
Missouri 69,200
Montana 15,900
Nebraska 20,300
Nevada 101,400
New Hampshire 15,700
New Jersey 118,300
New Mexico 67,100
New York 241,400
North Carolina 225,700
North Dakota 4,900
Ohio 156,900
Oklahoma 57,500
Oregon 42,200
Pennsylvania 137,100
Rhode Island 17,800
South Carolina 110,300
South Dakota 24,900
Tennessee 145,400
Texas 729,100
Utah 34,600
Vermont 6,500
Virginia 120,400
Washington 105,100
West Virginia 19,600
Wisconsin 90,500
Wyoming 7,000
Total 5,647,700

Note: Data collected July 2 to July 21, 2020 for children enrolled in a public or private school in February 2020. Figures are a three-week average. As recommended by the Census Bureau, the estimates exclude persons not replying to the question. Totals may not match due to rounding.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey public use files for survey weeks 10 - 12, https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/household-pulse-survey/datasets.html.

APPENDIX TABLE 2
Three-year averages of the number of children between 5 and 17 years of age in households at or below 130% of the federal poverty level, by race/ethnicity, 2016-2018
State Asian, not Latino Black, not Latino Latino (of any race) White, not Latino Another race or multiple races, not Latino
Alabama 1,700 114,400 30,300 87,500 10,600
Alaska * * 2,500 6,400 11,200
Arizona 4,000 18,100 200,100 72,500 43,300
Arkansas 1,200 44,100 29,000 75,400 9,500
California 107,400 113,300 1,180,700 210,400 65,000
Colorado 4,400 10,000 87,000 56,100 9,700
Connecticut 3,200 17,900 47,600 26,500 4,500
Delaware * 12,100 8,600 8,200 1,900
District of Columbia * 20,600 3,900 * *
Florida 13,600 244,600 330,800 216,400 38,700
Georgia 10,400 239,600 114,500 128,400 25,800
Hawai’i 3,800 * 6,500 3,200 19,800
Idaho * * 21,800 45,900 3,600
Illinois 13,600 135,800 172,200 145,200 18,900
Indiana 6,500 58,400 47,600 146,800 19,700
Iowa 2,300 13,200 15,900 56,700 6,100
Kansas 2,400 10,600 31,400 51,400 9,600
Kentucky 2,300 31,100 20,000 146,700 11,400
Louisiana 2,500 165,900 19,500 80,800 13,200
Maine * 2,800 1,000 31,200 2,500
Maryland 6,100 73,100 33,300 37,600 10,300
Massachusetts 10,500 25,100 75,100 55,300 9,900
Michigan 8,900 120,100 49,500 195,000 27,000
Minnesota 11,200 39,300 28,500 61,700 15,900
Mississippi 700 119,300 9,400 50,700 7,400
Missouri 2,700 59,500 22,500 146,100 20,700
Montana * * 1,500 23,900 10,100
Nebraska 2,400 7,800 24,200 28,800 4,400
Nevada 5,400 19,900 69,300 24,100 10,500
New Hampshire * 1,200 3,200 17,200 *
New Jersey 12,300 59,400 122,100 64,500 10,000
New Mexico * 1,900 85,900 16,100 21,300
New York 61,300 156,500 281,900 234,100 32,000
North Carolina 9,300 160,200 129,100 147,200 29,800
North Dakota * * 1,500 9,000 5,800
Ohio 5,800 133,500 46,500 247,100 41,800
Oklahoma 2,000 26,500 52,900 75,300 45,700
Oregon 3,700 5,700 54,500 68,400 11,500
Pennsylvania 13,300 105,000 96,900 204,800 27,600
Rhode Island 600 3,500 15,600 10,700 2,200
South Carolina 1,700 114,900 35,900 73,900 13,000
South Dakota * 1,700 2,800 13,500 15,400
Tennessee 3,500 96,400 44,900 147,500 14,200
Texas 30,200 218,300 1,025,800 217,200 33,900
Utah 1,900 3,700 36,200 54,500 7,800
Vermont * * * 13,400 *
Virginia 8,300 89,200 45,800 89,000 16,000
Washington 10,000 17,600 86,700 84,000 29,900
West Virginia * 4,500 2,000 70,100 5,500
Wisconsin 6,700 40,600 37,500 83,600 16,300
Wyoming 0 * 3,600 10,900 2,100
Total 405,000 2,959,700 4,895,900 4,170,900 825,100

* Sample size would be insufficient even with three years of data.

Note: Totals may not match due to rounding.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of 2016-2018 American Community Survey public use microdata samples.

APPENDIX TABLE 3
Three-year averages of the number of children between 5 and 17 years of age in households at or below 185% of the federal poverty level, by race/ethnicity, 2016-2018
State Asian, not Latino Black, not Latino Latino (of any race) White, not Latino Another race or multiple races, not Latino
Alabama 2,400 151,500 38,900 135,100 14,400
Alaska 2,900 * 3,200 10,500 16,200
Arizona 6,900 26,200 290,900 114,800 59,300
Arkansas 1,800 59,100 41,700 117,700 14,400
California 169,200 147,200 1,728,600 313,900 93,300
Colorado 7,500 16,000 139,500 88,900 15,000
Connecticut 6,000 26,200 69,600 43,800 8,300
Delaware * 17,900 12,300 13,100 2,700
District of Columbia * 27,700 4,700 600 *
Florida 22,900 348,600 479,600 346,900 56,200
Georgia 17,300 322,000 155,800 206,800 37,400
Hawai’i 6,800 * 11,500 5,300 30,000
Idaho * * 33,500 79,400 6,300
Illinois 20,600 177,400 266,000 225,800 28,300
Indiana 8,300 80,200 72,600 235,600 26,400
Iowa 4,800 17,000 24,000 96,700 9,900
Kansas 3,200 16,300 51,000 84,700 14,600
Kentucky 4,200 41,100 24,500 209,900 16,400
Louisiana 4,000 203,400 27,400 117,800 17,300
Maine * 3,500 1,700 48,500 3,600
Maryland 10,400 108,700 54,300 59,900 14,900
Massachusetts 16,000 35,700 97,900 83,700 13,700
Michigan 11,300 155,000 73,200 303,200 39,400
Minnesota 18,500 52,300 42,600 111,700 24,000
Mississippi 1,600 149,900 13,300 77,100 9,400
Missouri 4,500 77,800 33,500 227,300 28,500
Montana * * 2,900 39,200 14,000
Nebraska 3,500 9,700 35,800 54,500 7,700
Nevada 8,100 26,400 105,500 39,800 15,100
New Hampshire 1,700 1,200 4,200 29,500 1,400
New Jersey 19,100 83,700 173,100 103,600 14,000
New Mexico 900 2,300 118,500 24,800 29,000
New York 87,300 210,900 379,200 344,600 44,900
North Carolina 14,100 219,600 174,100 227,300 43,900
North Dakota * 1,900 2,100 17,000 7,100
Ohio 8,700 176,400 61,400 386,200 55,400
Oklahoma 4,400 34,900 71,700 116,400 66,400
Oregon 5,900 7,200 77,300 106,600 16,100
Pennsylvania 19,700 135,600 129,700 317,600 35,400
Rhode Island 1,000 5,300 21,400 16,600 3,400
South Carolina 3,100 151,300 46,700 124,000 17,600
South Dakota * 2,100 4,100 22,800 17,900
Tennessee 5,300 126,800 61,000 234,300 21,100
Texas 46,600 303,400 1,450,100 349,200 50,900
Utah 2,500 3,900 54,200 105,800 12,300
Vermont * * * 21,600 1,700
Virginia 15,400 121,000 72,400 140,400 24,000
Washington 16,100 23,700 130,000 141,400 43,600
West Virginia * 5,600 2,900 99,100 7,600
Wisconsin 9,100 51,800 52,100 142,100 22,300
Wyoming 0 * 5,400 19,400 2,900
Total 627,700 3,969,200 7,027,900 6,582,500 1,176,100

* Sample size would be insufficient even with three years of data.

Note: The estimates in grey have low unweighted sample sizes. Totals may not match due to rounding.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of 2016-2018 American Community Survey public use microdata samples.

APPENDIX TABLE 4
Children eligible for P-EBT benefits, the maximum benefit per child, and the potential total amount of benefits to households statewide, 2019-2020 school year
State Number of
eligible children
Maximum
P-EBT benefit per child
Potential total benefits
to households
Alabama 420,395 $313.50 $132 million
Alaska 73,000 $458.00 $33 million
Arizona 703,000 $313.50 $220 million
Arkansas 303,120 $319.00 $97 million
California 3,927,173 $365.00 $1,433 million
Colorado 356,099 $279.00 $99 million
Connecticut 289,407 $364.80 $106 million
Delaware 61,602 $370.50 $23 million
District of Columbia 86,415 $387.60 $33 million
Florida 2,065,374 $313.50 $647 million
Georgia 1,100,000 $256.50 $282 million
Hawai’i 93,297 $360.00 $34 million
Idaho 130,000 $302.00 $39 million
Illinois 1,099,786 $342.00 $376 million
Indiana 588,127 $319.00 $188 million
Iowa 249,404 $307.80 $77 million
Kansas 169,795 $291.00 $49 million
Kentucky 601,551 $313.50 $189 million
Louisiana 732,204 $285.00 $209 million
Maine 84,000 $383.00 $32 million
Maryland 430,954 $370.50 $160 million
Massachusetts 467,319 $399.00 $186 million
Michigan 829,722 $376.00 $312 million
Minnesota 349,952 $425.00 $149 million
Mississippi 345,827 $267.90 $93 million
Missouri 454,690 $302.00 $137 million
Montana 48,385 $330.00 $16 million
Nebraska 156,257 $281.00 $44 million
Nevada 334,000 $296.00 $99 million
New Hampshire 45,190 $376.00 $17 million
New Jersey 594,207 $416.10 $247 million
New Mexico 245,000 $399.00 $98 million
New York 2,077,711 $420.00 $873 million
North Carolina 903,320 $370.00 $334 million
North Dakota 39,760 $273.00 $11 million
Ohio 850,000 $302.10 $257 million
Oklahoma 312,021 $250.80 $78 million
Oregon 351,000 $384.00 $135 million
Pennsylvania 991,843 $370.50 $367 million
Rhode Island 74,622 $387.60 $29 million
South Carolina 467,000 $330.00 $154 million
South Dakota 62,000 $285.00 $18 million
Tennessee 615,610 $250.80 $154 million
Texas 3,641,635 $285.00 $1,038 million
Utah 75,000 $308.00 $23 million
Vermont 39,000 $387.60 $15 million
Virgin Islands 13,000 $379.00 $5 million
Virginia 594,494 $376.00 $224 million
Washington 560,267 $399.00 $224 million
West Virginia 204,542 $313.50 $64 million
Wisconsin 438,000 $324.90 $142 million
Wyoming 36,271 $285.00 $10 million

Source: The number of eligible children is from publicly available information on state websites or in press releases. The maximum P-EBT benefit per child amounts are from USDA FNS P-EBT approval letters and SNAP agencies. The potential total benefits to households are calculated by multiplying the number of eligible children by the maximum benefit amount per child. State SNAP agencies were offered an opportunity to review each element in this table to confirm or update information. We will update this information to reflect any corrections or clarifications we receive from states.

appendix table 5
Overview of states’ P-EBT implementation for the 2019-2020 school year
State Plan approval date Benefit issuance date range Method for issuing P-EBT benefits to eligible children not receiving SNAP (or other selected benefits)a
Direct issuance Application
Alabama 4/21/20 May - September X Xb
Alaska 6/5/20 August - September   X
Arizona 4/17/20 May - August X Xc
Arkansas 5/21/20 June - September X Xd
California 4/23/20 May - August   X
Colorado 5/18/20 July - September   X
Connecticut 4/24/20 May - June X  
Delaware 4/30/20 May - June X  
District of Columbia 5/19/20 May - August X  
Florida 5/27/20 June - September X  
Georgia 6/5/20 July - September   X
Hawai’i 5/28/20 June - July X  
Idaho 8/14/20 August - September X  
Illinois 4/17/20 April - September   X
Indiana 5/14/20 May - Unknown X  
Iowa 5/5/20 July - August X  
Kansas 4/25/20 May - September Xe Xf
Kentucky 5/19/20 May - September   X
Louisiana 5/14/20 June - September   X
Maine 5/5/20 May - July   X
Maryland 4/28/20 May - June X  
Massachusetts 4/29/20 May - June X  
Michigan 4/9/20 April - September X  
Minnesota 5/27/20 June - September   X
Mississippi 6/2/20 June - August X  
Missouri 5/15/20 May - September   X
Montana 6/26/20 July - September X Xg
Nebraska 6/16/20 July - September   X
Nevada 6/10/20 July - September X  
New Hampshire 5/12/20 Unknown - September   X
New Jersey 5/8/20 July - September X  
New Mexico 4/28/20 June - September X  
New York 5/6/20 May - September X  
North Carolina 4/16/20 May - June X  
North Dakota 5/1/20 May - September   X
Ohio 5/11/20 June - September X  
Oklahoma 6/26/20 July - August X  
Oregon 4/29/20 May - September X  
Pennsylvania 5/8/20 May - August X  
Rhode Island 4/10/20 April - June X  
South Carolina 6/17/20 July - September X  
South Dakota 6/18/20 June - August   X
Tennessee 5/19/20 June - September   X
Texas 5/8/20 May - September   X
Utah 7/9/20 July - September   X
Vermont 5/4/20 May - September X  
Virgin Islands 6/10/20 August - September X  
Virginia 4/25/20 May - June X  
Washington 5/22/20 June - September   X
West Virginia 4/30/20 May - September X  
Wisconsin 4/22/20 May - September   X
Wyoming 4/16/20 June - July   X

a All states except Louisiana and Wyoming directly issued benefits to children in households receiving SNAP benefit without requiring a parent/guardian to take any action, such as submitting an application. Some states referred to this as “automatic issuance.” It includes benefits loaded onto existing SNAP cards and benefits loaded onto new P-EBT cards that were mailed to families. Some states directly issued benefits to children in households receiving other benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance, Medicaid, Foster Care, services for homeless, runaway, or migrant students, or Head Start.

b Opt-in letter for children attending schools operating under the Community Eligibility Provision who were not directly certified

c For newly eligible children and those missed by direct issuance

d For private schools that do not report on the E-school platform

e Direct issuance was provided to some households; additional information was needed for most and collected through the registration portal

f Referred to as a registration portal

g For children missed by direct issuance

Sources: Plan approval dates are from the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service P-EBT approval letters and SNAP agencies. Benefit issuance dates are from publicly available information on state websites or in press releases. Whether an application was required was confirmed through a nationwide survey. State SNAP agencies were offered an opportunity to review each element in this table to confirm or update information. We will update this information to reflect any corrections or clarifications we receive from states.

Topics: 

End Notes

[1] Stacy Dean, Zoë Neuberger, and Dottie Rosenbaum are with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Crystal FitzSimons and Etienne Melcher Philbin are with the Food Research & Action Center.

[2] See Families First Coronavirus Response Act, P.L. 116-127, https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr6201/BILLS-116hr6201enr.pdf.

[3] For more information about the 2009 increase and a discussion of the importance of providing a temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits now, as well as several other important improvements in federal nutrition programs, see Dottie Rosenbaum, Stacy Dean, and Zoë Neuberger, “The Case for Boosting SNAP Benefits in Next Major Economic Response Package,” CBPP, updated May 22, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/the-case-for-boosting-snap-benefits-in-next-major-economic-response-package. For more information on the positive impacts of prior SNAP boosts on health and the economy, and why SNAP boosts are needed now, see https://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/snap-initiatives-to-make-snap-benefits-more-adequate.pdf and https://frac.org/blog/this-labor-day-america-needs-heroes.

[4] For a discussion of the importance of these changes to unemployment benefits and their potential to mitigate racial and ethnic unemployment disparities, see Chad Stone and Sharon Parrott, “Many Unemployed Workers Will Exhaust Jobless Benefits This Year If More Weeks of Benefits Aren’t in Relief Package,” CBPP, August 6, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/many-unemployed-workers-will-exhaust-jobless-benefits-this-year-if-more-weeks-of and Chad Stone, “Robust Unemployment Insurance, Other Relief Needed to Mitigate Racial and Ethnic Employment Disparities,” CBPP, August 5, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/robust-unemployment-insurance-other-relief-needed-to-mitigate-racial-and-ethnic.

[5] For a discussion of the importance of providing housing assistance, see Peggy Bailey and Douglas Rice, “Pandemic Relief Must Include Comprehensive Housing Assistance for People Experiencing the Most Severe Hardship,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 27, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/pandemic-relief-must-include-comprehensive-housing-assistance-for-people.

[6] The information in this section is drawn from CBPP, “Tracking the Covid-19 Recession’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Outcomes,” updated September 11, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/tracking-the-covid-19-recessions-effects-on-food-housing-and.

[7] See Bureau of Labor Statistics data through August at https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.a.htm.

[8] For a discussion of findings of various recent studies on parents’ mental health during the pandemic, see Jessica Grose, “The Pandemic Is a ‘Mental Health Crisis’ for Parents,” New York Times, September 9, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/09/parenting/mental-health-parents-coronavirus.html.

[9] Between March and June 2020, 27 percent of parents in a national survey reported worsening mental health for themselves, and 14 percent reported worsening behavioral health for their children. See Stephen W. Patrick et al., “Well-being of Parents and Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Survey,” Pediatrics, https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2020/07/22/peds.2020-016824.full.pdf.

[10] Guam did not apply to offer benefits. Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa were not eligible to apply. The District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands are providing P-EBT benefits.

[11] See www.cbpp.org/pebt for links to a profile for each state (which includes how the state identified eligible children, issued benefits, and responded to inquiries from families) and our compilation of state materials (including websites, benefit applications, and outreach materials). A report summarizing our findings, case studies of eight states, and state-by-state tables describing implementation features will soon be available at that site.

[12] The researchers focused on households receiving SNAP benefits because states generally issued P-EBT benefits to these households first. Lauren Bauer et al., “The Effect of Pandemic EBT on Measures of Food Hardship,” July 2020, https://www.hamiltonproject.org/assets/files/P-EBT_LO_7.30.pdf.

[13] This study examined three measures of food hardship — food insecurity, the share of households reporting sometimes or often not having enough to eat, and the share reporting very low food security among children in their households. The 30 percent reduction was in the share reporting very low food security among children in their households.

[14] The Food and Nutrition Service’s Regional Offices provided guidance, which is still evolving, to states via email in late August and early September.

[15] Education Week, “Map: Where Are Schools Open?” updated September 3, 2020, https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-covid-19-schools-open-closed.html.

[16] Cory Turner, ‘“Children Are Going Hungry’: Why Schools Are Struggling To Feed Students,” NPR, September 8, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/09/08/908442609/children-are-going-hungry-why-schools-are-struggling-to-feed-students.

[17] See Javier Balmaceda, “Without Boost in Next COVID-19 Relief Bill, Puerto Rico Faces Deep Food Aid Cuts,” CBPP, July 28, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/blog/without-boost-in-next-covid-19-relief-bill-puerto-rico-faces-deep-food-aid-cuts and Rosenbaum, Dean, and Neuberger, op. cit.

[18] See H.R. 6800, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6800.