- On May 12, Ohio received approval to operate the federally-funded Pandemic EBT program
- 850,000 school-age children will receive a $300 benefit to spend on groceries without needing to apply
- Regional analysis shows all Ohio areas will see a boost in economic activity from Pandemic EBT
- New child food insecurity data reinforces the importance of Pandemic EBT to fight child hunger
On May 12, Ohio became the 24th state to receive federal approval for a new program called Pandemic EBT.
On May 12, Ohio became the 24th state to receive federal approval for a new program called Pandemic EBT. As I wrote in April, Congress created the Pandemic EBT program, through legislation introduced by Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, in response to early reports of school closings due to COVID19. Legislators recognized that these students would miss out on the free and reduced-price meals they typically received at school. Since then, Ohio’s schools have been closed for more than two months and will miss out on more than 50 days of school this academic year. This translates to more than 85 million missed meals (breakfast and lunch) for the 47 percent of children who attend schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program.
More than 85 million missed meals (breakfast and lunch) for the 47 percent of children who attend schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program.
Governor Mike DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Job and Families Services (ODJFS), the state agency tasked with administering the new program, and the Ohio Department of Education identified 850,000 eligible children who will receive a one-time Pandemic EBT benefit of around $300 each. The ODJFS press release states that just under 507,000 children (60 percent) already participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often called food stamps) and will automatically receive the Pandemic EBT benefit on their existing Ohio Direction card. The other 343,000 children (40 percent) live in households that do not receive SNAP and will be sent a Pandemic EBT card in the mail. No application will be required. ODJFS expects to issue Pandemic EBT benefits by the end of May.
To better understand the regional impact of Pandemic EBT, I analyzed school-level data on student eligibility for free and reduced-priced meals from October 2019 published by the Ohio Department of Education. Although ODJFS will use more recent student data (from late April 2020) to implement Pandemic EBT, this information still provides a useful snapshot of the positive effects the program will have on nutrition and economic impact to different areas of the state. Some findings from my analysis include:
- Every county in Ohio will see a significant increase in resources available to purchase food thanks to Pandemic EBT. Even the 15 counties with the smallest numbers of eligible children will see between $200,000 – $600,000 in additional spending at grocery stores.
- As the state’s largest county, Franklin County has the highest number of children who will benefit from Pandemic EBT at approximately 115,000. The program will bring an estimated $34.5 million in federal funding to the county.
- Five of the top 10 counties for Pandemic EBT are in Northeast Ohio, including Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Lorain and Mahoning. Collectively, 12 Northeast Ohio counties will receive approximately $81 million to benefit 270,000 school children. See Table 1.
- In Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties, 170,000 children will benefit from Pandemic EBT, receiving $51 million in federal funds to spend on groceries.
- When analyzed by region (Northeast, Northwest, Central, Southeast and Southwest), Pandemic EBT will deliver between $27 million and $81 million in purchasing power to families, which will stimulate these regional economies. See Table 2.
- Nearly half, or 48 percent of children eligible for Pandemic EBT attend “community eligibility” schools where all students receive free meals due to a high percentage of low-income students. The remaining 52 percent of eligible children attend “traditional” schools where families must either complete an application for free and reduced-priced meals or participate in SNAP.
Table 1: Top 10 Counties for Pandemic EBT
County # of Eligible Students (Estimates) Total P-EBT Value (Estimate)
Franklin 115,000 $34.5 million
Cuyahoga 105,000 $31.5 million
Hamilton 67,000 $20.1 million
Montgomery 42,000 $12.6 million
Summit 38,000 $11.4 million
Lucas 34,000 $10.2 million
Stark 31,000 $9.3 million
Butler 26,000 $7.8 million
Lorain 22,000 $6.6 million
Mahoning 18,000 $5.4 million
Table 2: Regional Impact of Pandemic EBT
Region # of Counties # of Eligible Students (Estimate) Total P-EBT Value (Estimate)
Northeast 12 270,000 $81 million
Northwest 18 90,000 $27 million
Central 16 180,000 $54 million
Southeast 27 113,000 $34 million
Southwest 15 200,000 $60 million
Alarming new data shows that food insecurity, especially among children ages 12 and younger, is rising fast.
In case anyone needs additional evidence that Ohio families desperately need an infusion of federal resources to combat childhood hunger right now, alarming new data shows that food insecurity, especially among children ages 12 and younger, is rising fast. According to the April 2020 Survey of Mothers with Young Children analyzed by the Brookings Institution, 40.1 percent of mothers with children ages 12 and under reported food insecurity at the household level and a shocking 17.4 percent reported food insecurity at the child level. This means the mother responding to the survey affirmed that “the children in my household were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.” By comparison, only 3.1 percent of mothers answered yes to this question in 2018. Pandemic EBT is a critical new tool for Ohio to combat this tragic upward trend.
 Based on what the federal government approved in other states, this amount seems to be calculated by taking $5.70 – the school reimbursement rate for free breakfast and lunch – multiplied by the average number of missed school days (e.g. 52 or 53).
 The 15 counties with the smallest number of eligible children are Noble, Wyandot, Harrison, Paulding, Holmes, Monroe, Putnam, Union, Geauga, Ottawa, Henry, Morgan, Carroll, Mercer and Hardin