Amid Coronavirus, Scott, Fudge Introduce Legislation to Provide Emergency EBT Assistance

March 11, 2020
Press Release

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Reps. Bobby Scott (VA-3), Chair of the Education and Labor Committee and Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations,  introduced the Pandemic EBT Act to provide states the option to extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (or “Pandemic EBT”) to households with children attending schools that are closed due to a public health emergency based on the coronavirus disease.  The bill authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to approve state agency plans to provide Pandemic EBT benefits to households with children who would receive free or reduced-price school lunches if not for the closure of their school due to the pandemic emergency.

“Public health emergencies are particularly dangerous for low-income families that are already struggling to cover the cost of basic essentials,” said Chairman Scott.  “The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program — or P-EBT – provides emergency funding to ensure that these families do not go hungry as we combat the spread of coronavirus.  The Department of Agriculture is prepared to implement this program; all Congress has to do reauthorize and fund it.  This is a necessary, commonsense response that will help avert hunger and hardship for communities across the country.”

“As we begin to take precautionary measures to prevent the coronavirus by closing schools, there is no better time than the present to prepare to guarantee vulnerable Americans are fed during this and future public health emergencies,” said Chairwoman Fudge. “Although it may be necessary to close schools, it is also imperative that we keep in mind that school meals are often the only meals some students receive daily.  No child should be at risk of going hungry as we address any public health crisis.  I’m proud to introduce this emergency legislation to ensure families and children are not concerned about where their next meal comes from, but instead, can focus on remaining healthy and safe.” \

Under the bill, the Secretary of Agriculture may approve state plans to provide Pandemic EBT benefits to eligible households with children who may or may not already be participating in SNAP.  Eligible children must be receiving free or reduced-price school meals and be enrolled at a school that is closed for no less than 5 consecutive days due to the pandemic emergency based on an outbreak of coronavirus.  Benefits provided to approved households can be no less than the value of school meals at the federal free rate over the course of five school days for each eligible child in the household.  Authority to provide assistance under this bill is available only in Fiscal Year 2020.

The measure is similar to flexibilities provided by Congress in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 in response to the H1/N1 influenza pandemic of 2009.

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