New Jersey Human Services will provide extra food assistance benefits to nearly 600,000 children was approved by USDA. The approval will make $248 million available to the department.
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program will offered to those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and non-SNAP households with children eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure people throughout New Jersey have access to food assistance during this difficult time, especially children,” Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “Children should never go hungry, and approval of our plan is another step forward in our fight against hunger amid COVID-19.”
Implementing the Plan, Building on Prior Efforts
Human Services will begin implementing the plan, providing each eligible student with $461.10 to help with nutritional support during the time schools have been closed. Human Services is working with schools to find eligible children, with no application necessary.
Those already in SNAP will see the benefits issued directly to their existing Families First card.
Other eligible households will be mailed a Pandemic EBT card, with benefits expected no later than June.
“No child should go hungry, and this program will help ensure New Jersey children will get the nutrition they need,” Human Services Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira said. “We’ve been working hard to boost access to food assistance during this difficult time. This is a crucial step toward meeting that goal.”
The approval builds upon other efforts from Human Services, including the distribution of an additional $106 million in SNAP benefits since the start of the coronavirus emergency. Additionally, it made applying for SNAP easier by waiving the normally-required interview process to limit face-to-face interactions.
Pandemic EBT Program
The Pandemic EBT program was developed under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, giving the Secretary of Agriculture authority to approve temporary plans altering food assistance programs under states of emergency.
Technically, the program allows USDA to alter the eligibility and levels of benefits authorized under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008. States must present plans to USDA for approval, and the plans must be designed for any case in which a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session.
Children who would receive free or reduced-price meals under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act if not for the school closure are eligible under the provision.