Cindy Huddleston
October 15, 2020

P-EBT Reboot: Florida Should Take Advantage of New Opportunities to Feed Hungry Children During COVID-19

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.

**Questions on Summer P-EBT? Read Florida Policy Institute's Summer P-EBT Guide**

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) just got an expansive revamp from Congress for the 2020-2021 school year.

In a federal Continuing Resolution that became law on October 1, states can ask the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for permission to provide P-EBT in 2020-2021 to children who have a reduced number of days or hours that they’re physically present in a brick-and-mortar school or child care. This includes many of the  students in Florida who have opted for distance learning in schools that are otherwise open as usual.

Expansion of P-EBT in the Continuing Resolution is a big deal — and not just because it helps combat hunger for kids who otherwise would not be getting enough to eat outside of school.  For the first time, the Continuing Resolution lets states provide P-EBT to kids in hybrid school situations or child-care facilities, which was not allowed in the past.

 P-EBT for 2020-2021 cannot be rolled out soon enough.

Children in Florida are going hungry in record numbers because of the pandemic. Roughly 11 percent of families with children in Florida say that they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat, and less than half reported that they had enough of the types of food they wanted, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey  for September 16 –28.  And hunger is not color blind in Florida, either. Even before the pandemic, people of color were almost twice as likely to be food insecure in Florida.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, 2.07 million hungry children in Florida received P-EBT to make up for lost meals after schools closed in March 2020.  But the new-and-improved P-EBT program authorized by the Continuing Resolution won’t be activated in Florida for the 2020-2021 school year without approval from the federal government. Unless the state asks USDA to re-up Florida’s P-EBT program for the new school year, many children will lose out on free or reduced-price school meals.

Hopefully, Florida policymakers are already working on the state’s request to USDA. At a time when families continue to suffer a myriad of economic setbacks due to the pandemic, P-EBT offers a glimmer of hope that, at a minimum, children won’t go hungry.

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