All students who would have received a free or reduced-price meal at school—including undocumented students, students in districts that implement the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), and students whose private schools participate in the National School Lunch Program—are now eligible for additional food assistance through Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT). P-EBT provides families with cash on a government-issued card to purchase the same foods as are available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
In New York State, approximately 2.1 million students eligible for free or reduced-price meals will receive an additional $420, or $5.70 for each day school is closed. One hundred ninety-four dollars a month is the most an individual can current receive through SNAP. New York State expects to distribute $880 million in P-EBT benefits. Every dollar spent through EBT generates $1.50 in economic activity, making such benefits one of the most effective economic supports during a downturn, according to the Congressional Budget Office and Moody’s.
NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) will distribute benefits to students who already participate in SNAP or receive Public Assistance (PA) starting the last two weeks of May. These students have EBT accounts on a Common Benefit Identification Card (CBIC), allowing OTDA to provide P-EBT benefits automatically. Children using Medicaid will receive P-EBT once OTDA creates an EBT account on their existing CBIC.
For the 800,000 students not currently participating in SNAP, PA, or Medicaid, the process will extend into July and August. (Many of these students are New York City students, eligible because the school district has universal free school meals, also called Community Eligibility Provision.) OTDA must create new files for these students through a web service with limited capacity, and then issue new cards.
This month, families will start to receive benefits for the 34 days that schools were closed in March and April. In total, students will receive benefits for the 74 days schools are closed, from March 16 through June 25, 2020. The Tisch Food Center, and other advocates, are pushing Congress to expand this benefit through the summer until schools resume next fall.