Better World

These 3 Programs Can Put Money in Families’ Pockets This Summer—Don’t Miss Out

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From affordable internet to monthly checks for families with kids, there are some really helpful new benefits becoming available for families this year. Depending on the age of your family members and your income, you may be eligible for the following three benefits:

Summer Lunch

For kids receiving free or reduced-priced lunch (or who will newly qualify over the summer) and SNAP-enrolled kids under age 6 in child care, the Summer EBT (also known as Pandemic EBT or P-EBT) program that provides those meals will be extended beyond the end of the school year. This benefit will also cover the following groups:

  • Graduating seniors who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, since the covered summer period is considered an extension of the school year. 
  • Families expecting a new baby; SNAP-enrolled children who are born before the end of the covered summer period are eligible for P-EBT benefits for the entire covered summer period.

And, even more children will be covered via an expansion in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)–which allows schools in lower income areas to provide all meals free for their students, without requiring individual applications from families. That means that students who attend a CEP school are eligible for the P-EBT summer meals benefit, too.

Families with children who qualify for this benefit will receive EBT cards loaded with money that can be used to purchase food. The federal government will give the funds directly to the states, who will then decide how to allocate the money to families. States can calculate their own summer P-EBT benefit amounts, either for the whole state or specific to individual districts. However, the USDA encourages them to adopt the U.S. standard, which is $375 total for the summer—55 days at $6.82 per day—per child in the contiguous states (the amount is slightly higher for Alaska, Hawaii, and the territories). This amount could be distributed in one lump sum, or in two or three payments, depending on your state. 

Contact your school directly to get information and applications for the specific affordable meal programs available to you. You can find information about the income requirements and application process on the USDA site, who oversees the program. Details about the program are available in the USDA’s Frequently Asked Questions resource. 

Whether or not you qualify, you can use the USDA Meals For Kids Site Finder to locate sites offering free meals this summer. You can search by zip code; clicking each location will tell you the address, hours and days of the week they operate, and what meals are available. Nutritious meals are available at these locations at no cost for children and teens 18 and younger throughout the summer while school is out of session. No registration or applications are required. The USDA National Hunger Hotline is another helpful resource for finding food assistance.

Emergency Broadband Benefit

Qualifying families can get a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband services for eligible households, and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. This discount can apply to the broadband service itself, as well as equipment rentals like modems. It’s applied directly to the provider rather than paid out to consumers, so if approved you’ll see this as a credit on your monthly bill. The program also may provide up to a $100 one-time discount on a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program is available to any family using a participating provider that meets any one of the eligibility requirements, as found on their website. Another bit of good news: You can’t be excluded because of past debt with a provider, and you can always switch to a different authorized provider during the program.

Child Checks

To help families make ends meet this year, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, which expands the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for 2021 to give families monthly Child Checks of $250 or $300 for each child, depending on the child’s age.

The Child Tax Credit is now totally refundable, and it will be sent in monthly direct payments starting on July 15th rather than as a once-a-year credit at tax time. Folks who don’t usually file taxes will be eligible for this benefit as well, as long as they file through the IRS this year. 

Additionally, two online IRS portals are expected to be available by July 1 where you can register to get your Child Checks (if you don’t normally file taxes), update your information, or opt out of monthly payments if you’d rather get one large check at tax time in 2022. Learn more in our explainer.

President Biden has proposed extending the expanded Child Tax Credit through 2025; many members of Congress are calling for it to be made permanent so that eligible families can receive monthly support from birth to age 18.  

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.