Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of rule changes and new waivers have taken place within the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps). Empower Missouri is grateful for the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as our federal delegation members who have worked hard to pass and implement these important waivers and reforms. These changes have helped families and individuals access SNAP easier and shop safer.
Missouri is waiting on another important program change that will be crucial to helping those families who are struggling to feed their children during this time: P- EBT (Pandemic- Electronic Benefits Transfer). This program is an opportunity to provide needed nutrition support to families who are losing access to free or reduced-price school meals as school districts across the country have closed. This program is especially crucial for families whose children were accessing the free and reduced price meal program while in school but were not accessing the SNAP program prior to the pandemic. These families specifically are now having to afford extra food without the assistance that was there when their children were receiving breakfast and lunch at school five days a week. This new normal takes a lot more food and a lot more money!
The P-EBT program will provide money on a SNAP card for families, covering the cost of the meals that children would have been receiving if they were in school. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) estimates that all students who participated in the National School Lunch Program through their school district will be eligible for a benefit of $428 for each child from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. This will be additional money on top of what was allocated with families original SNAP benefit if already on the program. Or, if the family was not already on SNAP, it would be new money to cover meals for their children who are now learning from home. This additional money for food is essential for families during this time.
At the time of this publication, DESE and DSS have submitted a plan to the USDA for P-EBT in Missouri, but the plan has not yet been approved. DESE has assured us that once approved, the Department of Education Food and Nutrition Services will quickly release an information packet including an application and instructions. Also school districts and other community partners will be notified and provided with information to distribute to households. Empower Missouri will continue to inquire into the progress of the P-EBT plan approval for Missouri and ultimately monitor its implementation. We will add any updates to our website as they become available.
Senior Policy & Organizing Coordinator