When schools suddenly closed in March in response to COVID-19, the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program filled a critical gap in the food budgets of struggling families in Ohio. As I wrote in May, Congress created P-EBT to provide groceries to families whose children were missing out on free or reduced-price school meals. Ohio’s Departments of Job and Families Services (ODJFS) and Education (ODE) faithfully implemented the program. Between May and August of this year, ODJFS provided an estimated 850,000 children with more than $250 million worth of groceries at a time when rates of childhood hunger were spiking. Research from the Brookings Institution found that P-EBT benefits had an immediate and measurable impact on food hardship among families with children.
The Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program filled a critical gap in the food budgets of struggling families in Ohio.
With hundreds of thousands of Ohio school children beginning the 2020-2021 school year either virtually or in hybrid models that involve significant stretches of learning from home, ODJFS and ODE once again pulled together to seek federal approval for a second round of P-EBT benefits. On Friday, September 11, the federal government officially approved Ohio to issue a second round of P-EBT benefits to approximately 490,000 children who are learning from home for at least five consecutive days at a time. This includes school districts like Cleveland and Columbus that are teaching entirely virtually, children in hybrid models with extended periods of at-home learning (e.g. one week on and one week off), and children whose families opted for virtual learning even if their schools are operating in person. Ohio is one of only a few states (along with Tennessee and Hawaii) with plans to provide P-EBT benefits to students during the 2020-2021 school year that have been approved by the federal government so far.
Between May and August of this year, ODJFS provided an estimated 850,000 children with more than $250 million worth of groceries.
ODJFS estimates that $86.1 million in P-EBT benefits will be distributed to eligible children by September 30. Congress must renew the P-EBT program for benefits to continue beyond this date. The Center for Community Solutions continues to call on Ohio’s Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown to ensure a continuation of Pandemic-EBT in Congress’ next, much-awaited COVID-19 response legislation (the extension of P-EBT was already included in the HEROES Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May but has not been taken up in the Senate.) Without action, Ohio’s virtual learners will miss out on approximately $63 million in nutrition assistance each month until the P-EBT program is reauthorized.
The P-EBT program has been so crucial to Ohio families especially during this unprecedented time, and making sure Ohio families had, and will continue to have access to food and nutrition services took the efforts of many people working together. Community Solutions will honor two of the champions of this effort, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (OH-11) and Kimberly Hall, the Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, at our October 9 Celebration event where the two women will receive the Center for Community Solutions Award for Public Service in Honor of John A. Begala. Sign up today to join us for the virtual event.
 ODJFS Press Release, September 5, 2020, available at https://jfs.ohio.gov/ocomm/pdf/090520-Fall-Pandemic-EBT-Benefits-to-Support-Children-during-the-COVID-19-Emergency.stm; Also see the latest Restart Map from the Ohio Department of Education at http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Reset-and-Restart
 Author’s calculation: 490,000 children * 22 missed school days per month * $5.86 per day (federal school meals reimbursement rate for 2020-2021 school year) = $63.1 million