USDA - United States Department of Agriculture

04/14/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/14/2021 14:34

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

USDA Has Deployed 1,064 Disaster, Public Health Specialists to Assist with Federal Response

WASHINGTON, Apr. 14, 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:

  • 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: 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. 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. The full list of states and retailers participating in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot is available on the FNS website.
  • 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. For the 2020-2021 School Year, USDA has approved $17.7 billion to provide Pandemic EBT benefits to 20.6 million children in 35 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. 7: To date, Food and Nutrition Service has approved 21 State Agencies for Emergency Allotments totaling $1,215,930,093 for the month of April 2021. State Agencies 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. 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: 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.

Personnel Deployments

456 Personnel Currently Deployed; 1,064 Deployed Since Start of Campaign (Apr. 14, 2021)

  • Since the start of the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has deployed 482 personnel. Currently, 230 APHIS personnel remain active, consisting of:
    • 31 employees to support FEMA with planning and logistics (including 7 USDA Office of Homeland Security employees providing virtual support);
    • 48 employees to Colorado, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin to administer vaccinations;
    • 58 employees in Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin preparing the vaccine for those administering vaccines;
    • 39 intake registrars and 30 floor managers in Maryland and Oregon;
    • 10 Safety Officers supporting USDA employees throughout these sites;
    • 4 employees in Chicago;
    • 4 employees in Dallas;
    • 4 mobile relief personnel in Maryland;
    • 1 employee in Oregon; 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 36 veterinarians to assist with vaccination efforts in Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maryland, Oklahoma, and New York.
  • Since the start of the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign, the USDA Forest Service has deployed 538 of its own personnel and coordinated the deployment of 1,228 interagency personnel. Currently, the Forest Service has 182 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.
  • One (1) members of the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), one (1) member of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), 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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