P-EBT Extended—States Must Act to Fight Child Hunger
By: Parker Gilkesson
During the Coronavirus pandemic, hunger has doubled overall and tripled in families with children. These conditions are even worse for children of color. Nearly 4 in 10 Black and Latinx families with children are experiencing food insecurity. Access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) has helped to address hunger among households with children. P-EBT, which provides nutrition assistance to children who would otherwise get free or reduced-price lunches if schools weren’t closed, lifted 2.7 to 3.9 million children out of hunger. However, P-EBT—created as a temporary measure in March—was set to expire on September 30, 2020. Thankfully Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) last week that funded the federal government beginning October 1 and extended multiple provisions to help address food insecurity, childhood nutrition, and school meals, including P-EBT.
The CR expands P-EBT to provide meals for students participating in hybrid school models (online and in person) and young children in child care facilities who were previously not eligible. The CR also extends WIC administration waivers, child nutrition waivers, and existing SNAP administrative flexibilities that, for example, extend certification periods, simplify recording procedures, and adjust interview requirements.
Children experiencing hunger are more likely to have health, behavioral, academic, learning, and emotional problems. Many children receive important nutrition through school meals, SNAP, and—now—P-EBT, all of which improve their overall health, wellbeing, academic success, and cognitive development.
P-EBT has succeeded in getting food assistance to families with children; however, many states struggled to implement it in a timely fashion and to reach all eligible families. By immediately implementing P-EBT for this school year, states can effectively reach more eligible families, especially those who aren’t already receiving SNAP. States should also improve their programs based on lessons learned during the initial rollout of the new program.
Although the CR was a move in the right direction, it is not enough to address the widespread hardship caused by COVID-19. Congress must pass a comprehensive package to address the dire economic conditions that folks are facing. This pandemic has reinforced that our country needs big and bold changes so everyone has the resources necessary to gain greater economic mobility. Hunger and poverty existed well before COVID-19 and will continue until our nation’s policymakers are intentional about addressing the long-term structural and systemic factors creating hunger and poverty.