Pandemic EBT to Help Low-Income Families with Kids Buy Groceries


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  • (Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — About 850,000 Ohio children who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches at school now will receive about $300 each to make up for the meals they're missing with schools closed due to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Ohio's application to launch a temporary pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program. Rachel Cahill, a consultant with the Center for Community Solutions, said families enrolled in the SNAP program will get the funds first.

"The children who are connected to existing SNAP households will have the additional dollars added to their existing card, so no new card will need to be issued," she said. "For families that don't already have an EBT card, we expect that they'll get one in the mail."

The funds can be used to buy groceries anywhere that accepts an Ohio Directions EBT card. Families that get free and reduced-price lunches but aren't enrolled in SNAP will automatically get an EBT card and do not need to apply. Families that have lost income because of the pandemic and need help with food should apply for SNAP online at

Districts have the option to continue distributing grab-and-go meals if they choose. Cahill said that program, while commendable, has reached far too few students.

"While valiant efforts really have helped a lot of kids, they're reaching a small minority of children that are eligible for free and reduced-price meals," she said. "In some areas, I've heard maybe 10% of the kids are able to actually go, every single day, to that site."

U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, helped design the pandemic EBT program that passed Congress in March. Gov. Mike DeWine said the program will bring $250 million in federal funds to the state to benefit families and, in turn, grocery stores.

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