COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced and explained the new Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Pandemic Plan last week during his daily press conference. He was also accompanied by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton.

DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (JFS) has received recent approval from the United States Department of Agriculture for a Pandemic EBT program.

According to Perry County Job and Family Services Director Cheryl Boley, some Perry County residents may not even need to apply for the new program.

“There is no need for Perry County residents to apply for the P-EBT,” Boley said. “Those who already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will receive the issuance on their existing EBT cards. The children in non-SNAP households will have a new P-EBT case and will receive a special P-EBT card in the child’s name and mailed to the family. There will not be groupings of siblings on the same card. Individual cards will be sent for each child. The benefits are expected to be available by the end of May 2020.”

DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (JFS) has received recent approval from the United States Department of Agriculture for a Pandemic EBT program.

On the same day, United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made the same announcement. The Pandemic EBT program is under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed by President Donald Trump, will give families assistance in acquiring reduced-price meals.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Pandemic EBT is a supplemental food purchasing benefit for current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. The plan also is a new EBT benefit for other families who are eligible to offset costs of meals that would have otherwise been provided in school facility settings.

For the 2019-2020 school year, Ohio has around 850,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch translating to 47 percent of children in participating schools.

Other neighboring and far states have announced similar pandemic EBT programs. Joining Ohio are the states of Michigan, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Arizona, Illinois, Alabama, Wisconsin, California, Connecticut, Kansas, Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico, Delaware, Oregon, Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and New Jersey.

Under the FFCRA, states have the opportunity and option to submit a plan to the Secretary of Agriculture for providing SNAP and non-SNAP households. Households with children have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures.

According to the USDA, state entities can operate Pandemic EBT when a school is closed for at least five days during a public health crisis during which schools would be in session.

The inclusion of the Pandemic EBT plan is in line with USDA’s commitment to keep citizens safe and healthy during the national emergency and to keep children fed while schools are not in session. The USDA is also working with states and local authorities to make certain that schools and other program operators can continue to feed children.

Some of the recent actions done by the USDA is aimed at making sure everyone is fed during these interesting times. According to the federal department, it provided more than five million meals a week through its public-private partnership, Meals to You.

The USDA also debuted Meals for Kids interactive site finder. The program is aimed to help families find meals for children while school facilities remain closed throughout 38,000 locations.

The USDA also allowed state entities emergency supplemental SNAP benefits totaling over $2 billion increase per month in recipient purchasing power.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is responsible for administering 15 nutrition assistance programs that take advantage of American’s agricultural abundance to make sure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat.

According to the Ohio Statehouse, families will be receiving $300 to purchase healthy and nutritious food for their children. The benefits total round up to more than $250 million which is set to go to Ohio’s grocery stores and other retailers that are eligible.

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