Special Pandemic EBT Assistance Boost — Here’s How To Get It
(ReliableNews.org) – Federal officials recognized the pandemic would cause further stress on families to provide healthy, adequate meals.
With many schools closed or meeting in limited times, many students were missing the free or reduced-price lunches and breakfasts they normally receive. Plus with the cost of groceries going higher, standard SNAP payments were unable to make up for those missed meals.
So the government adopted extra EBT assistance benefits for qualifying families to provide extra money each month for food during the time schools were closed or operating hybrid schedules.
How the program works
Under the extended benefits program, participants receive their regular SNAP payments on the standard EBT card. But qualifying families will receive an extra EBT card each month loaded with their extra payment. These cards can be used at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other locations to pay for eligible food items, just as the SNAP card is used.
Eligibility for the extra EBT payment is generally determined by the families that qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, plus in locations where schools might have been closed or operated at limited capacity for five or more consecutive days. Only states that were set up to adopt the extra payment systems also were qualified to receive the extra federal assistance.
States were determined to be eligible for the duration of the school year, to ensure flexibility as coronavirus cases surged and waned. The program was extended through the 2021-22 school year for qualifying states, but some states opted out or did not have the capacity to issue the extra debit cards.
Extra pandemic EBT assistance program nearing the end
The extra pandemic assistance program was intended to be a temporary program to assist families through the pandemic period. While states were authorized to continue the program through the 2021-22 school year, the program is expected to continue through the summer as outlined in the American Rescue Plan.
Only 35 states and U.S. territories qualified for the program in the 2021-22 school year. Eligible states for the school year were Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, plus American Samoa, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Emergency allotment program assists many families
The federal government also created an emergency allotment program that allowed states to provide full benefits to SNAP recipients who qualified for less than the maximum amount. That program extended to all states that offered SNAP benefits, though that program also appears to be winding down. The federal government advised states they would be given 60 days’ notice when the program was due to end as a transition period to get families accustomed to the loss of maximum benefits.
Thirty-eight states and territories qualified for waivers to continue the program through May 2022, but only 18 states plus the District of Columbia and Guam will continue the benefits through June 2022. The states with waivers to continue through June are Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
How to receive extra EBT benefits or emergency allotment benefits
Decisions about SNAP eligibility and additional benefits are made by each state because income levels and food costs vary from state to state. Families who believe they may qualify for SNAP benefits and/or the extra income must apply through their state agency. Contact information for each state can be found through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
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