10/5/20 - A Message to Providers from Secretary Hou: IDHS Bright Spot: FCS P-EBT Team

Good afternoon Stakeholders,

Protecting the well-being of Illinois families has always been a priority for our agency, especially when it comes to ensuring that families have access to the most basic necessities, such as food, during the pandemic.

In today's Bright Spot, I would like to highlight the work of our Division of Family and Community Services (FCS) on successfully securing the extension of the Illinois Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits for the months of August and September. Through the FCS team's tenacity and hard work, the extension was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service on September 16, 2020.

Under the extension, some of the children who received P-EBT from this past Spring could be eligible for additional August and September benefits. The USDA authorized and funded the P-EBT program, which, with most students staying at home and doing remote learning, brought food benefits to all school-aged children who were eligible for free or reduced meals at schools through the National School Lunch Program. The benefit was available to students for August and September if they met additional, specific criteria.

Behind the Scenes

The FCS team had only 18 days to get the August and September extension done during the pandemic. After completion, they were able to reach a total of 499,510 children and provide them with over $68 million in benefits for food they didn't receive in August and September.

For almost 100,000 of those kids, this is the only Food Assistance Benefit they are receiving. Our team has talked to these families and this is more than food on the table, this is some stress relief for a household that gets a little breathing room in their budget during these trying times. This impact truly has downstream benefits to families and students that we could never measure.

A special thank you to all of our FCS staff, especially Kasey Reagan, Jonathan Claytor, Ashley Weatherford, Susan Hamlin, Brian Cruse, Jamie McCoy, Steve Casper, Mike Norris, Tracy Paben, Jyothi Gadgi, Leslie Cully, Tracy Keen, Patty Herker, Selena Hernandez, Jose Vazquez, Jill Outland, and Angela Imhoff.

Every step along the way was important and necessary to get this done and I would like to thank all of the team members that were able to accomplish this amazing feat. There were only a handful of states that were able to get these benefits to students for this extension and we are extremely fortunate that our team made us one of them.

Thank you,

Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS