The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) announced on April 23 that New Jersey will receive $18.1 million to help support the needs of students experiencing homelessness. New Jersey was scheduled to receive the first down payment on that amount – about $4.5 million – by the end of April.

The USDOE said the funding would help identify homeless children and youth, provide wraparound services in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide assistance to enable homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities, including in-person instruction this spring and upcoming summer learning and enrichment programs.

Under the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, after the first payment in April, remaining funds will be allocated to states as soon as June, the USDOE said.

Free Meals through June 30, 2022  On April 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was also issuing “a broad range of flexibilities” including  waivers and rule changes to permit free meals to be served to children through June 30, 2022. The USDA also increased the reimbursement rate to school meal operators.

The federal education department strongly endorsed the expansion of the free meal program, saying children need to be free from hunger in order to learn properly.

“This program will ensure more students, regardless of their educational setting, can access free, healthy meals as more schools reopen their doors for in-person learning,” said U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

The USDA will help schools continue providing breakfasts, lunches, and after-school snacks in non-group settings at flexible meal times. Parents or guardians can also pick up meals for their children when programs are not operating normally due to the pandemic.

The April 20 announcement came in addition to a variety of actions taken recently by the USDA to strengthen food security, drive down hunger, and put a greater emphasis on the importance of nutrition. The USDA recently maximized economic relief for struggling families by taking administrative action on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotments by targeting an additional $1 billion per month to roughly 25 million people in the nation. The Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act provides over $12 billion in new nutrition assistance to address hardship caused by the pandemic, including:

  • Extending a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits— providing over $1.1 billion per month in additional benefits for about 41 million participants—through September 2021;
  • Adding $1.1 billion in new funding for territories that operate nutrition assistance block grants—home to nearly 3 million Americans—to support those hard-hit by the pandemic;
  • Extending and expanding P-EBT—a program that served over 8.4 million families with children at its peak last year—through the duration of the public health emergency;
  • Funding meals for young adults experiencing homelessness through Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) emergency shelters;
  • Providing nearly $900 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), including a temporary increase in fruit and vegetable vouchers to $35 per month.

For a complete list of the waiver actions announced by the USDA, visit the department’s COVID response page.

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