Policy and Advocacy
On the policy front here in Pennsylvania, we finally have some progress to report on P-EBT! Earlier this week (on March 2), Pennsylvania finally submitted to USDA its required plan detailing how it proposes to distribute the Pandemic-EBT school meals benefit to school-aged children for the 2020-21 school year (a P-EBT plan for children under age 6 is still being developed). Now, we await USDA approval of the plan – or potential plan revisions based on USDA’s feedback to the state. Once the plan is approved, families will still need to wait several weeks for benefits to be issued. Schools throughout the state will have approximately four weeks to gather and provide all the necessary information about their students who are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, as well as if the school has operated on a fully virtual, fully in-person, or hybrid schedule each month. After this information, it will take about two more weeks to finalize the files and transfer them to the vendor so that benefits can be issued. Again, as with the P-EBT benefits provided last school year, households that receive SNAP benefits will have P-EBT issued to the SNAP EBT card; households not enrolled in SNAP will be mailed a P-EBT card. Here are the basics of what we know:
- PA families likely won't receive P-EBT before late April.
- This first round of benefits will cover September 2020 through January 2021. A second P-EBT payment will be issued in the summer to cover the time period from February through the end of the school year.
- If your child received free or reduced-price meals last year, you do not need to reapply for them unless your child switched to a new school.
- If your financial situation has changed and you believe your child is eligible, you can still apply for the school meal program for this school year. You can apply online through COMPASS, the state’s online benefits site.
- Families will be mailed new P-EBT cards, so it is important to make sure your child's school has your current address.
Once USDA approved Pennsylvania’s plan, we will follow up with additional materials and details.
Moving to the federal level, we are extremely pleased that the US House of Representative approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan early Saturday and sent it to the Senate. The bill will provide desperately needed help to the millions of families experiencing economic hardship and hunger due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill strengthens SNAP by extending the 15 percent boost to benefits through September 30, 2021 (currently only in place until June 30), providing extra administrative funds to support state work to issue SNAP benefits to households in need, and supplying additional funding for SNAP online purchasing. It also helps guard against food hardship among children this summer by allowing states to continue the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program and provides additional funding for improvements to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). As you’ve no doubt seen in the media, efforts to garner Senate support are in full force!