FACT SHEET: Update on USDA Activities to Contain the COVID-19 Pandemic
USDA Has Deployed 669 Disaster, Public Health Specialists to Assist with Federal Response
WASHINGTON, Mar. 24, 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:
- Restore trust with the American people.
- Mount a safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccination campaign.
- Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments, health care workforce, and clear public health standards.
- Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defense Production Act.
- Safely reopen schools, businesses, and travel while protecting workers.
- Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural/urban lines.
- 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.
- 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. In total, for the 2020-2021 School Year, USDA has approved $13.9 billion to provide Pandemic EBT benefits to 16.5 million children in 29 states and territories. For a full list of approved states, please see the Food and Nutrition Service website.
- 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: The Food Safety COVID Tip Card Series, Food Safety During Alternate Meal Services fact sheet, and Keeping School Meals Safe at Home infographic. 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.
- Feb. 17: USDA COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan
- Feb. 16: Biden Administration Announces Another Foreclosure Moratorium and Mortgage Forbearance Deadline Extension That Will Bring Relief to Rural Residents: USDA extended the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums on USDA Single Family Housing Direct and Guaranteed loans through June 30, 2021 due to an almost unprecedented housing affordability crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Feb. 15-21: A P-EBT school was approved for Delaware.
- Feb. 8- 14: P-EBT school plans were approved for Minnesota and Wisconsin.
- Feb. 1-7: P-EBT school plans were approved for North Carolina, West Virginia, Michigan, and South Carolina.
- Feb. 1: Biden Administration Halts Residential Evictions in USDA Multifamily Housing Communities in Accordance with CDC Guidance: USDA extended the eviction and foreclosure moratorium to affected multifamily housing residents through March 31, 2021, providing relief to the tens-of-thousands of Americans who rely on USDA-supported multifamily housing communities.
- Jan. 27: USDA Temporarily Suspends Debt Collections, Foreclosures and Other Activities on Farm Loans for Several Thousand Distressed Borrowers Due to Coronavirus: USDA temporarily suspended past-due debt collections, foreclosures, non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets or wage garnishments, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney's Office.
- Jan. 25-31: Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) school plans were approved for Tennessee and New Mexico.
- Jan. 22: Biden Administration Expands P-EBT to Benefit Millions of Low-Income and Food Insecure Children During Pandemic: USDA is increasing the Pandemic-EBT benefit by approximately 15%, providing more money for low-income families and millions of children missing meals due to school closures.
- Since the start of the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has deployed 343 personnel. Currently, 226 APHIS personnel remain active, consisting of:
- 25 employees to support FEMA with planning and logistics (including 7 USDA Office of Homeland Security employees providing virtual support);
- 105 employees to Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, and Oklahoma to administer vaccinations;
- 30 employees in Colorado, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin preparing the vaccine for those administering vaccines;
- 19 intake registrars and 24 floor managers in Oregon;
- 8 Safety Officers supporting USDA employees throughout these sites;
- 9 employees in Chicago;
- 5 employees in Dallas; and
- 1 employee in Indiana.
- The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) have dispatched 49 veterinarians to assist with vaccination efforts in Nevada, Maryland, Oklahoma, and New York.
- Since the start of the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign, the USDA Forest Service has deployed 268 personnel. Currently, the USDA Forest Service has 156 Incident Management Team personnel assigned to the National COVID Vaccine Campaign. Their work includes staffing vaccination centers, providing logistical support, and planning at regional/state levels with FEMA and states.
- Three (3) members of the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), one (1) member of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), one (1) member 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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