Reps. Fudge, Scott Send Letter to USDA Requesting Clarification of Pandemic EBT Guidelines

September 3, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC  Today, Reps. Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations, and Bobby Scott (VA-3), Chair of the Education and Labor Committee, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting immediate action to correct the Department’s recent Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program guidelines.  The Members expressed concern the Department’s guidance is misleading and includes requirements that will result in limited access to the program.

“The Department’s state guidance, which was provided to the House Committee on Education and Labor’s majority staff on August 24, 2020, indicates that children in schools that delay the start of their instructional year due to the COVID-19 pandemic will not be eligible for P-EBT during the time period between the traditional start of the school year and the delayed start time due to the pandemic,” the Members wrote.  “This is contrary to the statutory requirement that any child who would otherwise be eligible for a free or reduced price school meal if not for the closure of their school due to the COVID-19 pandemic for five or more days be eligible for P-EBT in participating states. 

Members also expressed the need for further clarification in the new state guidelines to guarantee children in schools offering entirely virtual instruction and meal service still would be eligible for P-EBT.  

The Members added, “With as many as 17 million children not getting enough to eat this summer, it is critical for the Department to do everything it can to ensure access to P-EBT.”

Reps. Fudge and Scott introduced the Pandemic EBT Act (H.R. 6200) on March 11, 2020 to provide USDA with the authority to approve state plans to provide emergency benefits to households with children who would have received free or reduced-price school meals if not for the closure of their school due to the public health emergency.  The measure was subsequently included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which was enacted into law on March 18, 2020.

On March 20, 2020, Reps. Fudge and Scott sent a letter urging USDA to act swiftly to implement Pandemic EBT and give states flexibility to tailor the program to best fit their needs during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  Since then, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have been approved to operate the program.

For the text of the letter, click here.