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NEW YORK — Families with children who were receiving free meals at school will be getting extra money for food while schools are closed. The second federal stimulus package passed by Congress included a Pandemic EBT plan to supplement food assistance for eligible families with children to replace the free meals they would have received in school. According to Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg, that will provide $880 million for 2.1 million low- and middle-income New York families.
“This is a really big deal, especially since it does cover immigrants including non-documented immigrants,” Berg said. “So, some of the most vulnerable people are going to get help from this.”
He said those already receiving SNAP benefits will have extra funds added to their EBT cards, and those not receiving SNAP will receive pre-loaded debit cards for food purchases only.
While undocumented immigrants are excluded from receiving direct cash benefits from the stimulus bills, Berg said the Pandemic-EBT plan is a separate program that doesn’t explicitly include or exclude anyone based on immigration status.
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“The state’s interpretation, as I believe agreed to by USDA: Any parent with kids in schools that are free or reduced-price eligible will automatically be eligible, and that includes undocumented,” he said.
He added the program will be the only federal assistance many of the most vulnerable families will receive.
While the Pandemic-EBT program was not created to be ongoing federal assistance, Berg noted the need is greater than Congress originally anticipated.
“When this was passed over a month ago, the anticipation was that many schools would be opening up far sooner than they would be. So, there’s going to be a big national push to expand this,” he said.
The supplements to eligible families will equal the cost of school breakfast and lunch at $5.25 per child per day.