Getting government benefits to the recipients who need them has been an important mission ever since these programs began. We’ve seen many changes in exactly how this delivery happens in our decades in the industry, and it isn’t just technology that changes – even the language we use to talk about benefits evolves over time. “Food stamps” became “SNAP” and “AFDC” became “TANF”; new terms and acronyms are used any time there are new programs.
One of the most dramatic recent changes is, of course, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s response to it. As new programs come online to get aid to those hit hard by the pandemic, we’re working closely with our government agency clients to deliver secure, convenient access to much-needed benefits. “Pandemic EBT” is a new term that means different things in different contexts. Here are two pandemic-specific programs that fall into that category where we deliver mission-critical services in support of these goals.
Pandemic EBT That Feeds Hungry Kids
With school buildings closed across the country, kids who would usually be receiving free or reduced price meals served in their school’s lunchroom no longer have that option. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 provides for state agencies to submit their plans for approval “in any case in which a school is closed for at least 5 consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session.”
More than a dozen states have already submitted their plans to provide EBT benefits to this vulnerable population and received federal approval; Conduent works with a number of them to deliver these benefits on EBT cards, including Michigan, which was the first state to be approved. Here’s a current list of states approved to disburse Pandemic EBT in this form, updated daily by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS.)
Pandemic EBT That Increases Benefits For Families
In addition to offering new benefits earmarked for school-age children, many states have taken advantage of new flexibility from FNS to increase SNAP benefits to households in their state. Officially called “SNAP COVID-19 Emergency Allotments,” these supplemental benefits most frequently take the form of increasing a household’s benefit amount to the maximum for those households previously receiving less than the maximum benefit. Taking advantage of existing infrastructure, these supplemental benefits are disbursed to EBT cards that cardholders are already using; for client states approved by FNS to offer these emergency allotments, Conduent works with our clients to process the additional benefits volume with the same care and attention we disburse SNAP benefits on a regular basis. More than $31 billion in funds was loaded onto Conduent EBT cards in 2019.
These new programs are just two of the ways federal regulations have shifted to allow more flexibility for states during the pandemic: other state flexibilities are on the FNS website here. However these programs evolve over time, Conduent will be here to assist with solutions, services and systems built on our decades-long knowledge of the EBT industry to help our clients deliver mission-critical services to those in need.