$2.2 billion available in food assistance for students who were remote and hybrid learners

Posted 15 June 2021 at 10:25 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Monday an estimated $2.2 billion in federal food assistance for children in New York State that were unable to access free school meals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program will provide eligible students $132 in food benefits for each month they fully participated in remote learning and $82 in food benefits for each month they participated in hybrid learning during the 2020-21 school year. (Click here for more information.)

“For many families across the state, free school meals provide a critical stop-gap and the ongoing pandemic has only made it harder for those already grappling with food insecurity,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will help school children throughout our state access critical food assistance at a time when so many families are trying to make ends meet.”

Starting June 14, food benefits will begin being issued to children enrolled to receive free school meals but had their in-person school attendance reduced due to the pandemic. Children that participated in remote learning for more than 12 school days during a given month will receive $132 for that month; children who learned remotely for at least one school day but no more than 12 days in each month will receive $82 for that month.

About 2.5 million children throughout the state are enrolled to receive free school meals during the 2020-21 academic year. Families will not need to apply for the benefits, which will be distributed in two phases: One beginning now and extending through late July that will cover fall semester benefits; and another beginning sometime in late July and extending through August that will cover spring semester benefits.

Eligible children who are in families that are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will see their benefits posted to that household’s regular EBT card. The households of all other eligible children will receive a letter informing them of their benefit availability and how to access them.

Children under the age of 5 who are part of a SNAP household will be eligible for P-EBT food benefits to replace meals missed due to the closure of childcare facilities during the pandemic. These benefits will cover closures since October 2020.

The families of children who received P-EBT cards by mail for the first-round last year will see the latest round of benefits posted to the same card if they are still eligible. If they no longer have these cards, they may request a replacement by contacting the automated P-EBT helpline at 1-888-328-6399.

Newly-eligible students who are not part of a SNAP household or in a family receiving Temporary Assistance will be issued a P-EBT card by mail along with instructions on how to activate it.

Like regular SNAP benefits, these Pandemic EBT benefits can be used to purchase food at authorized retail food stores. New Yorkers can also use these benefits to purchase groceries online from authorized retailers.

“With both the beginning of summer break and the end of the pandemic in sight, we cannot overlook that there are many families still suffering and children wondering where their next meal will come from,” said State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “Extending these benefits for children enrolled in the National School Lunch Program ensures our communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic can access the nutritious foods that they need in order to thrive.”