Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visitedFeedMore WNY Falconer Distribution Center to discuss the need to expand the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program as millions of New Yorkers struggle with food insecurity due to the pandemic. The Pandemic EBT Program provides nutritional resources to families who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to school closures caused by the pandemic. In Chautauqua County, more than half of K through 12 students receive free or reduced-price school lunches and with school reopenings uncertain, these families are in need of support to put food on the table. To address the growing uncertainty of school reopenings, Senator Gillibrand is proposing new legislation to extend the P-EBT program and expand eligibility to ensure all children have access to nutritious meals throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
“In this time of great need we cannot allow hungry children to slip through the cracks. More than 20 million children rely on free and reduced-price school meals and we cannot allow the P-EBT program to expire amidst the uncertainty of this next school year,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As the number of families facing food insecurity continues to grow, strengthening both P-EBT and the SNAP programs would provide a vital lifeline. Keeping Americans fed should not be a partisan issue and I will continue reaching across the aisle so that these critical proposals can be included in the next relief package.”
“Millions of children have missed school meals and critical nutrition programs amid school closures due to COVID-19. For many of these children, their school meals were their only source of nutrition that day. According to a recent Feeding America study, more than 79,000 children in FeedMore WNY’s service area will be at risk of hunger this year due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, we do not anticipate the increased need for food assistance to recede any time soon,” said Tara A. Ellis, president and CEO of FeedMore WNY. “FeedMore WNY is grateful for the support of Senator Gillibrand, in recognizing that children are our future and we must do everything we can to ensure that they have the nutritious food they need and deserve.”
“Extending Pandemic benefits to replace missed school meals is essential to allowing kids to stay healthy and be ready to learn in any environment, including a virtual classroom. Healthy food is foundational to learning. The Senator’s bill is caring and trauma-informed and supports children in concrete ways during these unpredictable times. CCA lends its full support,” said John Haley Director of Food Security at Connecting Communities in Action.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Senator Gillibrand has fought for the P-EBT program to feed nearly 2.1 million eligible children in New York State. While the program has been successful in feeding hungry children across the state, its authorization is set to expire in September, despite the uncertainty of whether schools will reopen this fall. Gillibrand’s proposal would extend the P-EBT program through the upcoming school year to ensure students have access to meals even if in person learning is disrupted. The proposed legislation would make the P-EBT program more responsive to these disruptions so that eligible students who miss any meals at school will receive benefits. Additionally, eligibility for P-EBT would extend to meet the growing needs of food insecure families.
In addition to the extension of the P-EBT program, Senator Gillibrand is continuing to push for an increase in maximum SNAP benefits by 15% and expanded eligibility for the SNAP program so that more Americans have more options to put nutritious food on the table. Before the coronavirus crisis began, SNAP was providing food assistance to 38 million Americans and more than 41% of SNAP recipients were in families with children. In New York 13% of rural families depend on SNAP while 15% of those in metro areas rely on the program. Although the need for SNAP has drastically increased as many Americans have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table, an increase or expansion of the program has not been included in previous coronavirus response packages. Senator Gillibrand’s proposals will not only increase SNAP benefits for each family, they will expand eligibility by removing harmful barriers to access, and they will put food on the table for families in need.