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FACT SHEET: Update on USDA Activities to Contain the COVID-19 Pandemic

USDA Has Deployed 1,298 Disaster, Public Health Specialists to Assist with Federal Response

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2021 — In January 2021, President Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. The plan is driven by science, data, and public health to improve the effectiveness of our nation’s fight against COVID-19 and to restore trust, accountability and a sense of common purpose in our response to the pandemic.

The National Strategy provides a roadmap to guide America out of the worst public health crisis in a century. It is organized around seven goals:

  1. Restore trust with the American people.
  2. Mount a safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccination campaign.
  3. Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments, health care workforce, and clear public health standards.
  4. Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defense Production Act.
  5. Safely reopen schools, businesses, and travel while protecting workers.
  6. Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural/urban lines.
  7. Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats.

The plan calls on all parts of the federal government to contribute its resources—facilities, personnel, and expertise—to contain the pandemic. Chief among the efforts is a whole-of-government response to stand up new federally supported community vaccination centers across the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responding to the President’s call to action. In addition to personnel, USDA is offering its facilities, cold chain infrastructure, public health experts, disaster response specialists, and footprint in rural areas and Tribal communities across the country. Here are the some of the ways USDA is working alongside our federal partners to contain the pandemic and get our economy back on track.

Programmatic Announcements:

  • May 5: USDA Invests $92.2 Million in Grants for Local, Regional Food Producers Affected by the Pandemic. USDA announced the availability of $92.2 million in competitive grant funding under the 2018 Farm Bill’s Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), as part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative. USDA launched this initiative in March to address shortfalls and disparities in how assistance was distributed in previous COVID-19 assistance packages, with a specific focus on strengthening outreach to underserved producers and communities and small and medium agricultural operations.
  • May 3: Instacart announced an expansion of their participation in SNAP online purchasing. Price Chopper plans to go live with 49 stores located throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Additionally, Food Maxx and Save Mart plan to expand to Nevada. The full list of states and retailers participating in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot is available on the FNS website.
  • Apr. 29-May 5: USDA approved Pandemic EBT to support children who are missing school meals due to closures in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Nevada. USDA approved Pandemic EBT to support children who are missing child care meals due to closures in Wisconsin, CNMI, Nevada, and Michigan.For the 2020-2021 School Year, USDA has approved $20.2 billion to provide Pandemic EBT benefits to 23.4 million children in 42 states and territories. USDA also approved its first P-EBT plan for the summer of 2021 in Indiana. The state’s summer plan will distribute an estimated $272.5 million to 727,000 children.
  • Apr. 29: USDA Enhances Administrative Funds to States to Improve SNAP: USDA is providing states with $1.135 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act to support and enhance their administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP).
  • Apr. 29: USDA released a 100 Days Update on our efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, promote racial justice and equity, address the mounting hunger and nutrition insecurity crisis, rebuild the rural economy, strengthen and build fairer markets for farmers and producers, and address the impacts of climate change through climate-smart practices.
  • April 28: USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a story map detailing the experiences and accomplishments of APHIS employees deployed to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
  • Apr. 28: To date, Food and Nutrition Service has approved 51 States/Territories for Federal Emergency Allotments totaling $2,847,944,987 for the month of April 2021, and seven States for Federal Emergency Allotments totaling $457,199,239 for the month of May 2021. State agencies and Territories submit their Emergency Allotments Extension requests to FNS throughout the month for acknowledgement and approval as long as they continue to meet their emergency declarations due to the pandemic.
  • Apr. 28: USDA to Incentivize Purchase of Fruits and Vegetables under WIC for 4 Months with American Rescue Plan Funding. Participants in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) may soon see a temporary increase to their benefits for the purchase of fruits and vegetables. With $490 million provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, USDA has offered states, tribal nations and territories the option of boosting the cash-value voucher benefit by more than three times the current amount for up to four months to provide additional relief during this difficult time.
  • Apr. 26: USDA to Provide Critical Nutrition Assistance to 30M+ Kids Over the Summer. USDA announced a new effort funded by the American Rescue Plan to provide adequate nutrition to more than 30 million children over the summer by expanding Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits.
  • Apr. 26: Over the last week, Price Chopper went live with 72 stores in New York and New Pioneer Food Co-op went live with one store located in Iowa, as part of the the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot.
  • Apr. 23: USDA Expands Nutrition Assistance for Seniors Amid Pandemic with American Rescue Plan Funding. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service increased food assistance to low-income seniors – a population that has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic – by providing nearly $37 million in additional support to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. States and Tribal nations will receive the new funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to serve additional seniors, in addition to up to $2.6 million in administrative funds from a previous COVID relief bill
  • Apr. 23: FDD and WIC Memos on Income Exclusions under the American Rescue Plan (ARP). ARP included recovery rebates for individuals (e.g., $1400 stimulus checks) and child tax credits for qualifying households. Pursuant to 26 U.S.C § 6409, both types of income are excluded in determining eligibility for USDA Foods programs and WIC. On April 23, 2021, USDA published memoranda to inform administering agencies of these income exclusions.
  • Apr. 22-28: USDA approved Pandemic EBT to support children who are missing school meals due to closures in Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, and Maryland. USDA also approved Pandemic EBT to support children who are missing child care meals due to closures in Kansas, Maine, and Maryland. For the 2020-2021 School Year, USDA has approved $19.4 billion to provide Pandemic EBT benefits to 22.7 million children in 40 states and territories. The full list of states and plans can be found at the following page: State Guidance on Coronavirus Pandemic EBT (P-EBT).
  • Apr. 21: Food and Nutrition Service’s Child Nutrition program approved the Connecticut State Department of Education Oversight Waiver and Plan.
  • Apr. 20: USDA Issues Pandemic Flexibilities for Schools and Day Care Facilities through June 2022 to Support Safe Reopening and Healthy, Nutritious Meals. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued a broad range of flexibilities to allow school meal programs and childcare institutions across the country to return to serving healthy meals in fall 2021, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to reopen schools safely. Several meal service flexibilities that enable social distancing have been extended through June 30, 2022. The waivers continue the Administration’s commitment to provide safe, healthy meals free of charge to children as the pandemic continues to threaten the food and nutrition security of the nation’s most vulnerable.
  • Apr. 15-21: USDA approved Pandemic EBT to support children who are missing school meals due to closures in New Jersey. USDA also approved Pandemic EBT to support children who are missing child care meals due to closures in West Virginia, and New Jersey.
  • Apr. 15: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has been working to expand access to online purchasing for SNAP participants. Most recently, Sweet Springs Market launched SNAP Online Purchasing at one store in Missouri, and programs at Save Mart brands have gone live in 51 Food Maxx stores, 67 Lucky, and 74 Save Mart stores. The full list of states and retailers participating in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot is available on the FNS website.
  • Apr. 13: USDA Invests More Than $330 Million in Specialty Crops Grants, Incentives to Purchase Fruits and Vegetables, and Help for Cotton Producers. USDA announced the availability of more than $330 million to help agricultural producers and organizations in the food supply chain recover from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding announced is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative launched in March and includes $169.9 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP), the availability of $75 million for Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program [GusNIP; formerly known as Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI)] grantees, and approximately $80 million in payments to domestic users of upland and extra-long staple cotton.
  • Apr. 13: Publix, which was previously accepting SNAP online payments in 816 stores in Florida, expanded their participation to include an additional 448 stores in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In addition, Superlo Foods, currently accepting SNAP online payments in one store in Tennessee, added a new store in Mississippi.
  • Apr. 9: USDA Boosts Food Assistance for Homeless Young Adults Seeking Refuge in Shelters. Food and Nutrition Service announced that young adults under the age of 25 experiencing homelessness will now be able to receive meals at emergency shelters participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Under normal circumstances, USDA only reimburses shelters for meals served to children through age 18, but the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act expanded several nutrition assistance programs to reach the most vulnerable populations experiencing food hardship due to the pandemic, including homeless young adults.
  • Apr. 8-14: USDA approved Pandemic EBT to support children who are missing school meals due to closures in New York, Colorado, and Alabama. USDA also approved Pandemic EBT to support children who are missing child care meals due to closures in Ohio, Delaware, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Alabama.
  • Apr. 1-7: USDA approved Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) to support children who are missing school meals due to closures in Iowa and Montana.
  • Apr 1: USDA Increases Emergency SNAP Benefits for 25 million Americans; Ensures COVID-19 Relief Reaches Those Struggling the Most. Food and Nutrition Service took action to provide $1 billion per month in additional food assistance to an estimated 25 million people in very low-income households that are participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and struggling to put food on the table due to the pandemic.
  • Apr. 1: Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the President’s American Jobs Plan.
  • Mar. 29: Biden-Harris Administration Extends Moratorium on Residential Evictions in USDA Multifamily Housing Communities in Accordance with CDC Guidance.
  • Mar. 25-31: Pandemic EBT plans were approved to support children who are missing school meals due to closures in Utah, and child care meals due to closures in North Carolina.
  • Mar. 25: USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service approved 53 States/Territories for Federal Emergency Allotments totaling $2,642,476,798 for the month of March 2021. State agencies and Territories submit their Emergency Allotments Extension requests to FNS throughout the month for acknowledgement and approval as long as they continue to meet their emergency declarations due to the pandemic.
  • Mar. 24: After Identifying Gaps in Previous Aid, USDA Announces ‘Pandemic Assistance for Producers’ to Distribute Resources More Equitably. USDA is dedicating at least $6 billion toward the new programs that will target a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs. The Department will also develop rules for new programs that will put a greater emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, timber harvesters, as well as provide support for the food supply chain and producers of renewable fuel, among others. Existing programs like the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will fall within the new initiative and, where statutory authority allows, will be refined to better address the needs of producers.
  • Mar. 23: USDA Invests $266 Million to Improve Rural Community Facilities and Essential Services in 16 States and Puerto Rico. USDA Rural Development is investing $266 million to build and improve critical community facilities to benefit nearly 3 million rural residents in 16 states and Puerto Rico. This funding includes $156 million to support health-care-related improvements and emergency response services that will benefit nearly 1 million rural residents in nine states and Puerto Rico both during and after the pandemic.
  • Mar. 22: USDA Increases SNAP Benefits Up To $100 Per Household with Funding from American Rescue Plan. USDA announced a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September 2021, providing an estimated $3.5 billion to households experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic.
  • Mar. 17-24: P- EBT school plans were approved for Idaho, the District of Columbia, and Texas. In addition, P-EBT child care plans were approved for the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and Texas.
  • Mar. 16: A P-EBT school plan was approved for Hawaii.
  • Mar. 12: The Office of Food Safety, in cooperation with the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) released several COVID-19 resources: TheFood Safety COVID Tip Card Series,Food Safety During Alternate Meal Servicesfact sheet, andKeeping School Meals Safe at Homeinfographic.These resources are available on the ICN website and on the Food and Nutrition Service website.
  • Mar. 12: USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is approving a modification of Minnesota’s COVID-19 adjustment, which allows SNAP Outreach partners serve as authorized representatives in order to complete applications over the phone for clients who need assistance. Minnesota has requested to update the list of community partners approved under the adjustment. FNS is approving the modification for March 1-June 30, 2021.
  • Mar. 11: As of this week, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has approved 49 States/Territories for Federal Emergency Allotments totaling $2,520,231,274 for the month of March 2021. State agencies and Territories submit their Emergency Allotments Extension requests to FNS throughout the month for acknowledgement and approval as long as they continue to meet their emergency declarations due to the pandemic.
  • Mar. 10: Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Congressional Passage of the American Rescue Plan Act.
  • Mar. 9: USDA Extends Free Meals to Children through Summer 2021 Due to Pandemic. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service announced the nationwide extension of several waivers that allow all children to continue to receive nutritious meals this summer when schools are out of session, through Sept. 30, 2021.
  • Mar. 8-13: P-EBT school plans were approved for Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and North Dakota.
  • Mar. 4: USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service approved 33 States/Territories for Federal Emergency Allotments totaling $1,695,651,929 for the month of March 2021. State agencies and Territories submit their Emergency Allotments Extension requests to FNS throughout the month for acknowledgement and approval as long as they continue to meet their emergency declarations due to the pandemic.
  • Mar. 1-7: P-EBT school plans were approved for Florida and Virginia. In addition, P-EBT child care plans were approved for Massachusetts and Indiana.
  • Mar. 1: A Texas A&M AgriLife-led research project funded through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is investigating the SARS-CoV-2 impact on meat processing by assessing the risks in a systematic farm-to-plate model. The goal is to maximize safety and minimize viral exposure to meat production workforce employees, and to everyone who buys and consumes meat. This research is part of NIFA’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Research investments to help find critical solutions to issues facing our nation during the pandemic. More information about how USDA is ensuring meat processing safety during the pandemic is available on NIFA’s website.
  • Feb. 25: Food Lion plans to extend SNAP online purchasing to eight additional states—Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia—beginning Feb. 25. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has been working to expand access to online purchasing for SNAP participants. The full list of states and retailers participating in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot is available on the FNS website.
  • Feb. 24: USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service approved five states for SNAP emergency allotments totaling $430,994,867 for the month of March 2021. State and territorial agencies submit their emergency allotment extension requests to FNS throughout the month for acknowledgement and approval, as long as they continue to meet their emergency declarations due to the pandemic.
  • Feb. 23: USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service released $400 million in additional funding to states to support The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), including $73.3 million in administrative funds and $326.7 million to purchase food through the Agricultural Marketing Service.
  • Feb. 23: Education Department Amplifies Expansion of SNAP Benefits to Help Students Pursuing Postsecondary Education During Pandemic. In accordance with President Biden’s January 22nd Executive Order on extending economic relief during the pandemic, USDA worked with the Department of Education to increase awareness of newly expanded SNAP eligibility guidelines for students.
  • Feb. 22-28: P-EBT school plans were approved for Washington, Connecticut, Arizona, and Kentucky. In addition, a P-EBT child care plan was approved for Arizona.
  • Feb. 18: COVID-19 Update: USDA, FDA Underscore Current Epidemiologic and Scientific Information Indicating No Transmission of COVID-19 Through Food or Food Packaging.
  • Feb. 17: USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service approved 47 states and territories for emergency allotments in SNAP, totaling $2,033,734,872 for the month of February 2021. FNS also approved one state for emergency allotments totaling $55,595,754 for the month of March 2021.

Personnel Deployments

310 Personnel Currently Deployed; 1,298 Deployed Since Start of Campaign (May 5, 2021)

  • Since the start of the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has deployed 525 personnel. Currently, 148 APHIS personnel remain active, consisting of:
    • 20 employees to support FEMA with planning and logistics (including 7 USDA Office of Homeland Security employees providing virtual support);
    • 22 employees to Maine, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin to administer vaccines;
    • 30 employees in Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin preparing the vaccine for those administering vaccines;
    • 24 intake registrars and 20 floor managers in Oregon;
    • 24 non-clinical support staff in Rhode Island;
    • 7 Safety Officers supporting USDA employees throughout these sites; and
    • 1 employee in Oregon.
  • The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have dispatched 37 veterinarians to assist with vaccination efforts in Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maryland, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and New York.
  • Since the start of the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign, USDA’s Forest Service has deployed 709 of its own personnel and coordinated the deployment of 1,514 interagency personnel. Currently, the Forest Service has 119 Incident Management Team personnel assigned to the National COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign. Their work includes staffing vaccination centers, providing logistical support, and planning at regional/state levels with FEMA and states.
  • Two (2) members of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), and four (4) U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers detailed to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are assisting with logistical support for the vaccination campaign.

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