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Summary of Current COVID-19 Child Nutrition Program Response Nationwide Waivers and Relief Bills
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The table conveniently details all of the nationwide waivers issued to date by the USDA in response to the coronavirus.

Nationwide Child Nutrition Waivers

For each of the nearly 100 nationwide waivers and waiver extensions issued to date, this summary provides the waiver number, the title, programs to which it applies, its release date, the end date, a brief summary of what the waiver does, and additional notes and caveats. It also includes the Q&A memoranda issued by the USDA to provide clarification and additional guidance around the nationwide waivers and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Summary of Current COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Waivers was last updated on 10/25/2021 and will be updated with the latest guidance once USDA issues new waivers. 

Congress recently passed the Keep Kids Fed Act, which extends the USDA's authority to issue nationwide waivers for Summer 2022 operations, provides more limited nationwide waiver authority for School Year 2022-2023, and offers additional per-meal reimbursement rates for one year. For more details on the Keep Kids Fed Act, please see our summary.

It is important to note that this is more limited than the previous extensions of USDA's nationwide child nutrition waiver authority, and it will not permit USDA to allow schools to operate through the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and offer meals at no charge to all students next school year. Schools will need to return to operating the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program and collecting free or reduced-price meal eligibility applications, unless the school elects the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). Likewise, except for those in states that have passed state legislation to support school meals for all (California, Maine and Vermont), schools will need to resume charging students for meals if they are not eligible for free school meals, unless the school has adopted CEP or another non-pricing provision. 

 

COVID-19 Relief Bills

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, H.R 1319, was enacted into law. Congress passed this $1.9 billion COVID-19 relief legislation to address ongoing economic hardship and food insecurity. This is the 6th relief package since the beginning of the pandemic. This resource is a summary of provisions that are critical to No Kid Hungry's policy and advocacy priorities.

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Pandemic EBT
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This section provides information and resources to help you understand and promote Pandemic EBT for children.

Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) provides grocery benefits to families when kids miss school meals because of COVID and during the summer months when school is closed. Children are eligible for P-EBT if they qualify for free or reduced price school meals

P-EBT was first authorized in March 2020 when schools were closed due to COVID-19. The program has since been expanded to include children under the age of six and extended through the public health emergency including over summers. As the program has been extended, it has been modified to provide benefits when hybrid school models are used and when individual students experience quarantine and illness. 

States are individually approved by the USDA to operate P-EBT. Each state determines their own P-EBT plans, so program components such as who receives benefits and when benefits are available differ from state to state. 

These resources are based on USDA guidance for school year 2021-2022 and Summer 2022:

  • For details and updates on P-EBT for the 2021-2022 school year, see Fast Facts on P-EBT for the 2021-2022 School Year

  • Pandemic EBT is a valuable resource for families, but as a newer program many families may not know about it. It is important for eligible families to know that P-EBT benefits are available, so they receive this support. Help spread the word with the Pandemic EBT Outreach Toolkit. This toolkit provides sample messaging, materials, and Frequently Asked Questions for P-EBT outreach in English, Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. 

  • No Kid Hungry’s benefit webpage in English and Spanish includes information about P-EBT for families including states where the program is available and links to each state’s P-EBT website. This webpage is updated regularly as new states are approved.

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Fast Facts on Pandemic EBT for the 2021-2022 School Year

This one-pager provides a quick guide to P-EBT and changes for the 2021-2022 school year.

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FAQs on Child Nutrition Program Options During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Looking for information on your options for feeding kids during school closures and through the summer?

Some of the program options changed at the end of the 19-20 school year, but many waivers remained in place. The original FAQ on serving meals during coronavirus-related school and child care closures was overhauled and turned in to a separate resource on serving meals during summer 2020. The original FAQ is still posted here for reference along with the summer 2020 FAQ.

The summer 2020 FAQ answers questions on general program requirements and flexibilities, who is eligible to receive meals, what types or organizations can be a summer meals program sponsor or site, monitoring and visit requirements, menus and meal options, the waiver request process, and the relationship between child nutrition programs and Pandemic EBT.

For guidance related to the 20-21 school year, see the Meal Service Strategies page.

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SNAP Changes and Flexibilities during COVID
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This section provides information on SNAP changes and flexibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic including benefit increases.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is designed to respond quickly to need during economic downturns like the COVID-19 pandemic. SNAP has been critical for ensuring families and children have food during the pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, flexibilities were provided to states to better serve those newly eligible for SNAP when social distancing was required and in-person options were limited. These included:

  • Waiving recertifications to reduce paperwork and households being unnecessarily cut off benefits because of staff capacity

  • Not requiring an interview during the application process

  • Easier telephonic signatures

  • Suspended the program's three-month time limit for single adults without disabilities

State flexibilities have been extended as the federal public health emergency continues. 

One of the best ways to bolster the economy during a downturn is to increase the purchasing power of SNAP as it is typically spent within the month it is received in local communities.

  • SNAP Emergency Allotments were authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 allowing all households to be at the maximum benefit amount for their household size. Additionally in April 2021, the USDA clarified that the emergency allotments would also provide up to an additional $95 benefit to those households who already qualify at the maximum benefit amount or those that are close to it. SNAP emergency allotments continue as long as individual states and the federal government have a public health emergency declaration in place - see which states currently provide these extra SNAP benefits.  

  • In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan provided a 15% boost to SNAP benefits that lasted through September 30, 2021.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 temporarily expanded SNAP eligibility for college students starting January 2021 through the end of the federal public health emergency declaration. This allows more college students with low incomes struggling with food insecurity to qualify for SNAP. 

The United States Department of Agriculture quickly expanded its SNAP online pilot at the beginning of the pandemic allowing more states to provide options for using SNAP online to purchase food.