Biden moves to give low-income families more money to buy food

The Agriculture Department, which oversees school meals and P-EBT, published instructions today That makes it easier for states to get help for more families – and at a higher payment rate than under the Trump administration.

“We want to put more money in the hands of people with children,” said Stacy Dean, assistant secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.

What’s new: The changes introduced on Friday allow states to simplify how they find out which children are eligible for benefits. The administration also explained how children younger than school age for the first time can receive P-EBT benefits – an extension of the program that Congress called for in last month’s aid package.

“We hope that it will be easier for the states to implement the program,” said Dean in an interview.

The political context: Congress last month instructed USDA to simplify the program, but Friday’s guidelines and increased aid also mark a significant ideological shift at USDA.

During the Trump administration, the mandate was more to err on the caution side and to introduce guidelines that focused more on checking individually which households were eligible for P-EBT for how many days – a task that was so administratively complicated Some schools are open, others only online and others are hybrids, which delayed the implementation of the program.

Rather, under the Biden administration, the mandate is to provide more aid to as many low-income households as possible as soon as possible, even if it means inadvertently involving some children who are learning in person.

What it means: The new policy means that many households already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – still known to many as food stamps – will soon receive additional benefits if they have children under the age of six.

This also means that all families eligible for P-EBT will receive more help. The reimbursement rate for school meal replacement is increased by approximately $ 1 per day, which is $ 6.82 per child per missed school day – which is a little over $ 136 per child per month. (Prices are higher for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.)

The USDA encourages states to apply the performance increase retrospectively for the entire school year. For example, if a household received P-EBT assistance in August and September, they could be owed almost $ 20 more per child per month.

Most states are not ready to roll: To date, only nine states and territories have been approved for reimbursement of P-EBT benefits: Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Tennessee.

Most states have not yet submitted plans to the USDA. The ministry said it has received plans from 22 states and territories, with more expected in the coming weeks.

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