By
Cindy Huddleston
|
October 7, 2021

Florida’s 2021 Summer P-EBT Program: Frequently Asked Questions

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Note: This document is based on information available as of the date of publication. As Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) continues to plan its roll out Summer P-EBT in November 2021, some of this information may change. Although this document will be updated to reflect any changes, Florida Policy Institute recommends consulting DCF’s  P-EBT website for up-to-date details about program eligibility criteria or issuance. 

The Summer Pandemic Electronic Benefits Program (Summer P-EBT) provides families with assistance to purchase food over the summer for children who normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school during the school year through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). 

On September 27, 2021, USDA Food and Nutrition Service approved Florida’s plan for Summer P-EBT. Florida’s Summer P-EBT program will provide a one-time payment of $375 per eligible child.

Below are answers to common questions about Summer P-EBT.

What children are eligible for Summer P-EBT in Florida?

In a nutshell, eligible children include those who were either eligible for free or reduced-price meals last school year (SY 2020-2021) or who became eligible over the summer, as well as children under 6 who participated in SNAP as of the end of school year 2020-2021 or became eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the summer.

Will school children receive Summer P-EBT if they did not become eligible for free or reduced-price meals until this past summer?

Yes. Children who became newly eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the summer may be eligible for Summer P-EBT so long as they were either directly certified or applied prior to the start of their school district’s 2021-2022 school year.

The date when each school district began classes in the current school year, SY 2021-2022, is here.

What children are “directly certified” for Summer P-EBT?

 “Directly certified” means that a child was  determined  eligible  for free or reduced-price school meals without having to apply.  In Florida, children participating in SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Medicaid who go to a school participating in the free or reduced-price school meal program are directly certified without having to apply.

Is Summer P-EBT different from the P-EBT that children received last school year?

Yes.  Summer P-EBT is different from the P-EBT program that Florida administered to provide food assistance to children last school year during distance learning.  Summer P-EBT, which was authorized in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, extends P-EBT  to address hunger among children who lack access over the summer to meals they usually get during the school year through NSLP and SBP.

Can a child get double Summer P-EBT, both as someone who is eligible for free or reduced-price meals and as a child under 6 who participates in SNAP?

No. Children cannot get double Summer P-EBT. However, children who received P-EBT during the 2020-2021 school year or when they were in child care in 2020-2021 can also receive Summer P-EBT. 

Note that children can get both Summer P-EBT and meals though Florida’s Summer Food Service Program.

Why does Florida need Summer P-EBT if it already has a summer feeding program?

Although summer feeding programs are critical in defending against food insecurity, those programs only reach about 1 in 5 children whose families rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. Among other reasons, this is largely because many families lack transportation to a summer meal site.

How does Summer P-EBT work?

Summer P-EBT benefits are issued on EBT cards to the parent or guardian of eligible children. EBT cards are used like debit or credit cards to buy food. Most grocery stores and many farmers markets accept Summer P-EBT. These benefits can be used to buy food, with certain exceptions such as alcohol, hot foods, and foods prepared for immediate consumption, like toasted sandwiches at the deli.

Summer P-EBT can even be used to buy seeds or plants to grow food.

How many months of Summer P-EBT will a child get?

If they qualify, children will be able to receive retroactive Summer P-EBT for June 3, 2021, through August 31, 2021.

How much does Summer P-EBT provide in benefits?

Children will get $6.82 a day, for a total of $375.  This represents money for breakfast, lunch, and a snack, and equals the number of weekdays during the covered summer period.

Do people have to apply to get Summer P-EBT for their kids?

No. Although families can apply for free or reduced-price meals using the normal application process in their school districts, families cannot apply for Summer P-EBT.  Instead, Summer P-EBT benefits will be automatically issued to families with eligible children.

When will families receive Summer P-EBT for eligible children?

DCF plans to begin issuance in November 2021. Although families will get their child’s total benefits in one issuance, not all families will be issued P-EBT on the same day.  The exact date that families will get their P-EBT depends on whether the family currently has a P-EBT card or needs to be issued a P-EBT card. 

Can children get Summer P-EBT even though the summer is already over? 

Yes. Summer P-EBT benefits will be provided retroactively. Even though summer is over, Summer P-EBT will help families with low income catch up from having to provide meals for their children over the summer.  It will also be an economic boost to the communities in the state where families will be purchasing groceries with Summer P-EBT assistance.

Will families get a new P-EBT card for Summer P-EBT?

Children who either are not currently receiving SNAP or did not receive P-EBT benefits during SY 2020-2021 will be issued a new P-EBT card for Summer P-EBT. DCF plans to issue one P-EBT card per household, regardless of the number of children in the home who are eligible for Summer P-EBT.   If Florida is unable to identify eligible children within the same household, a card will be issued for each child.

For other families, Summer P-EBT benefits will be loaded onto their existing P-EBT cards.

If possible, eligible participants will get text blasts or emails from DCF telling them if benefits have been added to their existing cards.

What is a P-EBT card?

A P-EBT card looks and works like a debit card. Households can use their P-EBT cards to purchase groceries at participating stores and farmers markets by swiping their EBT card at point-of-sale (POS) terminals in the check-out line.

If a child is ineligible for SNAP because of their immigration status, are they also ineligible for Summer P-EBT?

Summer P-EBT does not restrict eligibility based on immigration status. Nor will using Summer P-EBT be considered in a public charge evaluation or affect a parent’s or child’s immigration status.  In addition, there is no citizenship requirement for free or reduced-price school meals and schools cannot reject a child because of their immigration status or require that students have a social security number to sign up.

However, since children under the age of 6 can ordinarily get Summer P-EBT only if they also participate in SNAP, those children will be subject to SNAP’s citizenship requirements that limit eligibility based on immigration status.

Children ages 6 and older who are ineligible for SNAP, TANF, or Medicaid because of their immigration status will need to have established their eligibility for Summer P-EBT by enrolling in free or-reduced-price meals at their school or attending a school where all students get free meals.  However, to receive Summer P-EBT, they would have had to apply for free or reduced-price meals before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Is there a way to check if DCF has the correct address on file?

Families should double check the address on file through their online DCF MyACCESS or school account to ensure that P-EBT has their correct address.

What if DCF makes a mistake concerning a child’s Summer P-EBT?

DCF has an  online form for households to report that a mistake has been made with their Summer P-EBT. Individuals will also be able to report Summer P-EBT problems by calling 1-833-311-032. 

What if a family does not want Summer P-EBT benefits? 

Some families do not want Summer P-EBT benefits even though their children may be automatically eligible. Although rare, this typically comes up in families with children who are in Community Eligibility Schools where all kids are deemed eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

FNS has addressed that issue directly and says that P-EBT benefits cannot be given away or donated.  FNS suggests that non-SNAP recipients  destroy their card if they do not want P-EBT benefits that have been issued to their children. For SNAP recipients who do not want extra P-EBT for their eligible children, FNS suggests contacting DCF.

How many children in Florida will receive Sumer P-EBT?

Florida estimates that it will issue over $1 billion in Summer P-EBT to  almost 3 million children

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