Newsom Administration Rolls Out COVID-19 Response Initiatives on Food Insecurity, Child Care
This week, Governor Gavin Newsom launched new initiatives related to food insecurity and access and childcare amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The initiatives are detailed below:
Farm to Family Program
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, California food banks have seen an unprecedented level of demand, seeing a year-over-year increase in demand of approximately 73 percent, according to the Newsom Administration. California’s Farm to Family Program is a partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the California Association of Food Banks to facilitate food donations from farmers and ranchers by supporting food production, processing, and distribution of the food supply chain. The Newsom Administration announced this week that CDFA received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to redirect $2 million in unused Specialty Crop Block Grant funds to the California Association of Food Banks to offset the costs of picking, packing, and transporting donated produce. An additional $861,854 from the USDA Farm to Food Bank Program was awarded to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to support the program. The Farm to Family Program partners with 41 food banks serving all 58 counties and handles the logistics of packaging the food and communicating with foodbanks.
Further, roughly 128 farmers and ranchers are donating to the California Association of Food Banks and another 200 farmers have expressed interest in participating in the program. The additional funds will support the donation of 21 million pounds of fresh crops for the month of May. $775,000 in additional private funds have been secured for the California Association of Food Banks to help provide a bridge to local food banks to be able to meet the increased demand through the end of May and will be leveraged to launch the $15 million campaign to support the Farm to Family Program through the end of the year.
Expanded EBT Program
Governor Newsom additionally this week announced that CalFresh recipients will receive the maximum amount of benefits for the month of May. The expansion of benefits was secured through a USDA waiver that allows all households to receive the maximum allowable benefit amounts and is a continuation of the same level of benefits received in March and April.
Families with children eligible for free or reduced-price meals are eligible to receive additional support through the Pandemic Emergency Benefits Transfer Program (P-EBT). CDSS has identified roughly 3.8 million children who could qualify under the program, and each eligible child could receive up to a total of $365 in P-EBT benefits. P-EBT eligible children that receive CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits do not need to apply for P-EBT benefits and will receive a P-EBT card in the mail in early May. Other families receiving free or reduced lunches but not enrolled in CalFresh will be required to complete an online application which is expected to be launched in late May.
Further, Governor Newsom announced the launch of EBT for online purchasing. EBT participants are now able to use their EBT card to make purchases online at Amazon.com and Walmart.com. Purchases are able to be completed online with CalFresh food benefits and P-EBT benefits.
On Thursday, Governor Newsom and CDSS Director Kim Johnson announced a new portal, www.MyChildCare.ca.gov, to enable California parents to enter their location and type of childcare they need to instantly receive a list of local licensed childcare programs, including their capacity, availability, hours, health and safety information, and contact information. In announcing the portal, Newsom discussed the expenditure of $50 million in childcare vouchers which prioritize children at risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, as well as children of essential workers. An additional $50 million was made available to go toward childcare facility cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement.