On December 12, 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the first Pandemic EBT plan for school year 20222023. Wisconsin’s plan includes benefits for both school-age children and children under 6 in child care. The state estimates that 80,000 school children, which includes 15,000 qualified homeschool [1] or virtual students, and 95,000 children under 6 in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in child care are eligible to receive Pandemic EBT benefits. The state estimates that it could distribute approximately $110 million throughout the school year, beginning in January 2023 

Wisconsin’s combined plan closely mirrors its approved plan for the school year 20212022: 

  •  For children attending school, the school food authorities (SFA) will report absences for students eligible for free and reduced-price school meals to the state, which will be used to issue benefits.  
    • While USDA does allow states to issue benefits in a range (for example, if a student is absent between 5 and 10 days, they qualify for one uniform benefit level), Wisconsin is issuing based on the exact number of days a child is absent. 
  • For SFAs that do not track whether a student’s absence is due to COVID-19, USDA has approved a simplifying assumption for Wisconsin to assume that a child’s absence of 5 or more consecutive day is due to COVID-19 and thus qualifies them for benefits.  

For children under 6 on SNAP in child care, Wisconsin uses a similar method to last year and calculates monthly benefit levels based on decreases in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) lunches served at child care centers and homes when compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

  • One difference this year is that USDA is allowing states to use smaller windows of data to calculate benefit levels. For example, Wisconsin is using CACFP data from September to October to calculate the benefit levels for September 2022 through January 2023. This simplification is important because it will alleviate some of the lag in benefit issuance. States will not have to wait 60 days to receive monthly CACFP data.  

Additionally, states across the U.S. must now include a pathway to Pandemic EBT benefits for students who are income eligible for free or reduced-price school meals and attending school virtually or are being homeschooled, but who disenrolled from National School Lunch Program (NSLP) eligible schools after January 27, 2020, due to COVID-19. 

 Wisconsin’s plan includes an application process for this specific population of children in homeschool and virtual academies.  

  • The application includes questions to determine if the child is eligible for free or reduced-price school meals and if they disenrolled from an NSLP participating school in response to the pandemic. 
  • For homeschooled students, families will also need to complete a form to confirm they are being homeschooled. This information, including income eligibility, will be verified by the state, including enrollment in brick-and-mortar schools, utilizing enrollment data from the last four school years.  
  • The state plan also includes a caveat to allow children in kindergarten through second grade who meet all other criteria for eligibility but were never enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school due to COVID-19 to receive benefits.  

The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) applauds Wisconsin on its approved plan. We look forward to the approval of more Pandemic EBT plans in the coming weeks to help ensure that all children have the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.

[1]To qualified for Pandemic EBT, a homeschooled or virtual academy student must have entered homeschooling after Jan 27, 2020 due to concerns about COVID-19.