All NYC public school families will receive $420 per
child for food benefits through federal coronavirus relief effort
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Every public school student in New York City will soon receive more
than $400 to help pay for food while school buildings are shut down,
regardless of family income.
Through a federal relief effort, the state was recently approved to
disperse the Coronavirus Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or
sweeping program will automatically send families
the equivalent of about $5.70 per day to make up for meals that each
student would have been eligible for while in school.
Because New York City is a universal free lunch district,
providing no-cost meals to all 1 million students regardless of need,
every child in a city-run public school qualifies. It adds up to about
$420 per child — retroactive from the time buildings were shuttered in
mid-March, through the end of the academic year in June. Across the
state, the program will bring in more than
$880 million in federal funds.
Charter and parochial students should also benefit, so long as their
school participates in the federal school lunch program.
Anti-hunger activists who fought for universal free lunch in
the city say the coming relief is unprecedented in scale and serves dual
purposes: keeping children fed, and helping local businesses stay
Families, some of whom may be receiving public assistance for the first
time, should not hesitate to use the money, said Joshua Goodman, a city
“This is an important program that is going to benefit a lot of
people,” he wrote in an email. “This crisis is exactly what public
benefits like P-EBT were made for, and there is no reason to feel
reluctant to use it to take care of your family.”
An estimated 2 million people in
the city, the epicenter of the virus’s chokehold, are hungry. More than
500 schools have continued to serve as meal hubs since buildings shut
down on March 16, providing bagged breakfasts and lunches to anyone who
Still, meal hubs can only go so far in
meeting the need. With set hours, locations that may require traveling
on public transit, and menus that don’t always meet dietary or
religious restrictions, families may find it hard to access food served
Increased food benefits, meanwhile, have a well-documented effectof helping to boost
the economy, as families can shop in local bodegas and markets.
“That’s money that immediately gets infused into the local economy,”
said Liz Accles, executive director of the
nonprofit Community Food Advocates. “People get benefits and they spend
them right away because the needs are immediate.”
Families do not have to apply. For those already receiving food
assistance or medicare, the additional funds
will be added automatically to EBT or identification cards. Payments
should begin in early June, according to the state.
For all others, benefits are expected to be mailed beginning late June.
The state is responsible for disbursing the money and is working with
the New York education department to identify families who haven’t
previously received public benefits.
Unlike previous rounds of federal stimulus support, families will qualify
regardless of immigration status. The benefits will not count against the “public
charge” rule, under which other public benefits could be a strike against someone’s chances of
securing a green card or other kinds of visas.
City leaders said they are working on an information campaign so that
parents know to expect the extra support. That will be crucial, Accles said, because families may be skeptical of
spending the money if they are worried it was sent in error — and that
they may need to eventually pay it back.
“We really want to make sure that people know what this is when they
get it,” Accles said. “It’s essential and
people really need the support.”
For more information, visit the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability
Students and Parents can click here to view
Teachers can click here to view