By Rachel Cahill, Visiting Fellow, Public Benefits
Sofia Charlot, Guest Author
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 mapped out the legislative end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) programs, marking the end of SNAP emergency allotments and other relief programs associated with the pandemic. This includes the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program which will officially end on September 30, 2023.
Over the last few years, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), and Ohio school districts collaborated to administer the P-EBT program, making crucial funds for nutrition available to Ohio’s school aged children and children in childcare.
From program inception in Spring 2020 through Summer 2023, the P-EBT program provided an estimated $2.2 billion in nutrition assistance to Ohio’s children.
From program inception in Spring 2020 through Summer 2023, the P-EBT program provided an estimated $2.2 billion in nutrition assistance to Ohio’s children. With food prices soaring along with an overall increase in the cost of living, this emergency program helped Ohio families keep food on the table.
In its last iteration, Pandemic EBT benefits will be smaller in Summer 2023
The last Pandemic-EBT benefits to be issued in Ohio will occur this summer (summer 2023). The total maximum benefit for summer 2023 is $120 per eligible child, which is much less than previous summer allotments (for example, the Summer 2022 P-EBT benefit was $390 per child).
Recent FNS’s guidance also explains Congressional changes that excluded some groups of children that qualified for P-EBT benefits during the 2022-2023 school year, including:
- Child-care age children (i.e. SNAP eligible children under the age of 6 who are not yet enrolled in school)
- Homeschooled and virtual students
Eligible Ohio households will receive the summer P-EBT benefit in one payment. Ohio began issuing summer benefits in late June with benefit availability staggered so all families don’t receive the benefit at once. Students matched with a current SNAP household will have their benefits issued directly to their SNAP account. Students not matched to a current SNAP household will receive benefits on a separate P-EBT card.
To determine which children were eligible for Summer P-EBT in Ohio, ODE, ODJFS, and the Management Council of Ohio collaborated to identify children who were eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP), including all students at Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and Provision 2 eligible schools. Schools were directed to collect NSLP applications through the end of their school year, determine eligibility, and then submit student data to ODJFS for summer P-EBT benefits processing. To meet the September 30th deadline to distribute P-EBT funds, Ohio schools will not be required to collect applications throughout the summer, unlike in previous years.
For any questions or concerns regarding summer P-EBT, please refer to this Q&A document developed by ODJFS and ODE. The P-EBT customer service line (1-866-244-0071, Option 1) is also available for support until at least September 2023.
Permanent Summer Solutions on the Horizon
Ohio residents are feeling the impact of the end of certain pandemic-era relief. In a previous post, we detailed how SNAP households in Ohio experienced a benefit cut in March with mostly children and older adults experiencing the impact. Adding to that analysis, a statewide study of hunger from the Ohio Association of Food Banks found that 76%–or 3 in 4–SNAP participants indicated that their benefits lasted two weeks or less since pandemic-era SNAP benefits ended.
With the increased cost of living and food, programs like Summer Pandemic EBT are still needed in Ohio.
With the increased cost of living and food, programs like Summer Pandemic EBT are still needed in Ohio. Thankfully, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 established a permanent Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer Program (Summer EBT) starting in 2024. This program aims to provide meals to low-income children during their summer break. Benefits for summer 2024 will be $40 per month for every eligible child (comparable to P-EBT benefits in Summer 2023).
FNS recently provided initial guidance for states planning of Summer EBT in 2024, but many program details remain undetermined. FNS guidance encourages collaboration between state agencies to establish a strong program foundation with defined roles and responsibilities. FNS also encourages state agencies to work with their legislative bodies to ensure that state laws allow for an effective program, including allocating the appropriate funds to support Summer EBT, as the permanent program will require states to cover half of administrative costs.
Summer EBT becoming a permanent program is an exciting opportunity for states to build out this new, critically-important child nutrition program in a thoughtful way. Unlike with Pandemic EBT, states will now have the time and space to prioritize program integrity, access, and equity in this new iteration. That starts with investing in strong Summer EBT infrastructure.
Anti-hunger and child nutrition advocates in Ohio will play an important role in educating lawmakers about the importance of Summer EBT to the long-term health and well-being of Ohio’s children and families.
Anti-hunger and child nutrition advocates in Ohio will plan an important role in educating lawmakers about the importance of Summer EBT to the long-term health and well-being of Ohio’s children and families. Policymakers must ensure that this new program has a chance to establish a solid foundation with the appropriate state laws, provisions, and budgets. Ohio’s state agencies, who worked together so successfully to keep Ohio’s children fed during the pandemic, will need consistent executive and legislative support and resources to stand up a successful Summer EBT program. The Center for Community Solutions stands ready to assist in any way we can.