By: Rachel Cahill, Consultant
Hope Lane, Public Policy & External Affairs Associate
Additional federal resources will be available to Ohio families this summer to cover the rising cost of groceries while school is out. The Center for Community Solutions (Community Solutions) estimates that the Summer Pandemic-EBT program (Summer P-EBT) will provide approximately $400 million in federally-funded food assistance to more than 1 million Ohio children this summer. When combined with continued “emergency allotments” from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), enhanced fruit and vegetable benefits through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and more flexible summer meals through the Summer Food Service Program, Ohio has a unique opportunity to dramatically reduce childhood hunger during the summer for the first time in decades.
Child hunger typically increases during the summer when children lose access to free or reduced-priced meals at school. Research shows that even short periods of hunger during childhood can lead to life-long consequences. While summer nutrition programs are available in many areas of Ohio, these programs reached just 1 in 10 eligible children in 2019. By comparison, the newly announced Summer P-EBT program will be able to provide additional nutrition assistance to 100 percent of eligible children this summer.
The newly announced Summer P-EBT program will be able to provide additional nutrition assistance to 100 percent of eligible children this summer.
What is Summer P-EBT?
In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) which included an extension of the successful Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program beyond the end of the current school year. On April 26, the federal government released new guidance on Summer P-EBT. While the details of Ohio’s plan are not yet known, federal guidance allows states to implement the following:
- Summer P-EBT is available to all children who are eligible for Free-and Reduced-Priced (F/RP) meals. This includes children who did not receive P-EBT benefits during the 2020-2021 school year because their schools operated in-person. Based on P-EBT eligibility at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, Community Solutions estimates that approximately 870,000 school-age children will qualify for Summer P-EBT benefits in 2021.
- Summer P-EBT can also include children under age six who are enrolled in SNAP and not yet in school. These children began getting P-EBT benefits in April 2021 when Ohio’s “P-EBT plan for Children on SNAP Under Age 6 and Not in School” was approved. During the summer, these young children will receive the same amount of P-EBT benefits as school-age children.
- Because summer break varies so much across the country, states can set a standard benefit amount of $375 per child for Summer P-EBT. It is unknown whether Ohio will provide this benefit as a one-time payment or in multiple payments.
- Summer P-EBT is available to children who apply for F/RP meals or enroll in SNAP during the summer. All children enrolled in one or both programs will automatically receive P-EBT benefits, without needing to submit an additional application.
For the latest updates on P-EBT and Summer P-EBT, please visit www.ohiopebt.org and https://jfs.ohio.gov/ofam/p-ebt.stm
All school-age children eligible for F/RP meals who attended a school during the 2020-2021 school year that typically participates in the National School Lunch Program will be eligible for Summer P-EBT.
How will Summer P-EBT reach eligible children?
All school-age children eligible for F/RP meals who attended a school during the 2020-2021 school year that typically participates in the National School Lunch Program will be eligible for Summer P-EBT. (To see if your school participates in the National School Lunch Program, check here.) As with P-EBT, school districts will need to submit complete rosters of F/RP-eligible students to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services so that P-EBT benefits can be issued. (Instructions on how to do this are provided by the Ohio Department of Education.)
Families who did not receive P-EBT benefits in previous rounds can request an Application for Free and Reduced-Priced Meals from their local schools or school districts. Families with incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible for reduced-priced school meals. For example, a family of three with annual income below $40,182 will qualify.
For children under age six who are not yet in school, the child must be part of a household that participates in SNAP in order to qualify for Summer P-EBT.
For children under age six who are not yet in school, the child must be part of a household that participates in SNAP in order to qualify for Summer P-EBT. Families already enrolled in SNAP will automatically receive Summer P-EBT benefits on their existing EBT cards. It is important for families to report changes in household composition, such as a birth, to their County Departments of Job and Family Services to ensure Summer P-EBT benefits are calculated correctly.
Families not enrolled in SNAP that apply during the summer can get Summer P-EBT benefits too. Families can apply for SNAP at ssp.benefits.ohio.gov or by calling your County Department of Job and Family Services.
This blog post will be updated when additional information from ODJFS about the timing of Summer P-EBT issuances becomes available.
Additional nutrition assistance available this summer
In addition to Summer P-EBT, Ohio’s children can benefit from three other unique opportunities to afford nutritious food during the public health emergency:
- SNAP emergency allotments, are still available and bring all SNAP households to the maximum benefit. For example, the maximum SNAP benefit for a family of three is $616 per month. SNAP emergency allotments will only continue as long as both the state and federal public health emergencies remain in place. SNAP emergency allotments have provided vital support to Ohioans through the course of the pandemic and the state should ensure they remain in place to support a robust health and economic recovery.
- Extra fruit and vegetable benefits, are available until September 30, for pregnant women and children under age five who participate in WIC. Fewer than 50 percent of eligible women and children in Ohio participate in WIC, so many families are missing out on these benefits. The WIC application is available here.
- More flexible summer meals, thanks to pandemic-related waivers for normal requirements like “congregate feeding” and “area eligibility.” These waivers will allow participating Summer Food Service Program sites to provide grab-and-go meals to all children in summer 2021. Families can access on-site or take-home summer meals as well as use other programs, like Pandemic-EBT, SNAP, and WIC, to feed their families.
Please help spread the word to encourage all low-income families to apply for SNAP, WIC and Free and Reduced-Priced School Meals, if they are not already enrolled!
Let’s make this Ohio’s first summer without child hunger
No child, especially our youngest children who are in the most critical stages of brain development, should go hungry in Ohio. With new federal resources available from SNAP, WIC and P-EBT, this summer presents an extraordinary opportunity for Ohio to dramatically reduce child hunger. Please help spread the word to encourage all low-income families to apply for SNAP, WIC and Free and Reduced-Priced School Meals, if they are not already enrolled!
For immigrant families who may be hesitant to access food assistance: the 2019 public charge rule is no longer in effect. Immigrant families eligible for SNAP can participate without concern for their immigration standing. Furthermore, WIC, school meals and P-EBT continue to be available to all income-eligible children regardless of immigration status. With food insecurity rates among Hispanic/Latino households with children far exceeding the rate for white-led or Black-led households in Ohio, community-based organizations are desperately needed to help spread the word that food assistance is available to all Ohio families in need. No child in Ohio should go hungry this summer.