Florida Starts Process of Applying for Federal Food Aid Program

The Florida Department of Children and Families said it started the process of applying for Pandemic EBT last week out of an abundance of caution.

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Jennifer Desa is a teacher, and her husband is a paramedic.

“Neither of us lost our jobs,” she said. “We were very lucky.”

Still, she said her husband did see reduced hours during the pandemic. So the money her family received during the last school year under the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, or PEBT, made a big difference.

“It was a huge help for groceries,” she said.

Under PEBT, money families can use to help buy groceries is loaded onto EBT cards for children who qualify for the federal program, which includes children who would normally receive free or reduced meals at school.

“My mother is disabled and receives state benefits, so because she lives in our household, my son automatically gets eligibility for free or reduced lunch,” Jennifer said.

According to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service website, the “…benefits are available in any school year in which there is a public health emergency declaration…” for an outbreak of COVID-19 as well as during “…any covered summer period that follows…” 

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“The details are still to be announced because Florida is just now in the process of getting their application together to give to the federal government,” said Cindy Huddleston, a senior policy analyst for the Florida Policy Institute.

Huddleston said the move would provide about $820 million in food assistance to over 2 million children in Florida.

“The maximum amount would be $375,” she said. “That comes down to about $6.82 a day for children, which may not sound like a lot, but when you’re a family that’s really struggling for meals, that means a lot to them.”

For Jennifer, that money would go a long way.

“For my family, that is groceries for a solid at least two months,” she said. “I am very frugal. I coupon. We try to make things stretch out as much as possible so that we can live within our means and live a comfortable life.”

The Florida Department of Children and Families said in an email it “…started the process of applying for Pandemic EBT...” last week “…out of an abundance of caution…"

The USDA sent NBC 6 a statement Thursday saying it “…has not received a summer P-EBT plan from Florida," adding: “USDA commits to working with the state to approve its plan as quickly as possible once received, but without seeing Florida’s plan, USDA cannot comment on how quickly benefits could be available to children after plan approval…”

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