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The SNAP-Hybrid Model Can Increase Summer EBT Benefit Use

December 7, 2023

Benefits from federal programs are effective only if beneficiaries use them. Delivering benefits to encourage the most use requires planning. This is true for Summer Electronics Benefits Transfer (EBT), a new national program that provides grocery-buying benefits in the summer to low-income families with children who get subsidized lunches during the school year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) has piloted this program in more than 15 states and Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) since 2011. Abt Global’s evaluations of these demonstrations showed that Summer EBT lifted children out of food insecurity and the nutritional value of their diets improved. However, benefit usage differed across states depending on how the states issued benefits. Insights from past evaluations may inform how states choose to issue Summer EBT when they start implementation in 2024.

Drawing Down Co-Loaded Benefits
During the 2012 demonstration, two states used the SNAP-hybrid model. Before implementation, they had to decide how co-loaded benefits would be drawn down when SNAP recipients used their EBT card at the check-out counter. Each EBT processor established a new program designation code within its system to separate Summer EBT benefits from SNAP. In SNAP-hybrid sites, the EBT processor established rules for which benefits were used first by families that received both Summer EBT and SNAP.

In one state, the EBT processor used a first-in, first-out process based on when the benefits were issued. For example, if a household was receiving both SNAP and Summer EBT, any existing SNAP balance had to be drawn down before the household could access its Summer EBT benefits. In other states, Summer EBT benefits were given a priority draw ahead of any SNAP benefits.

Redemption Rate
Evaluations of the 2012 demonstrations found that families in the state where Summer EBT was given a priority draw-down almost maxed out their Summer EBT benefits. The redemption rate, which is the average percentage of benefits that a Summer EBT household redeemed, was 98 percent. The other state that used the SNAP-hybrid model but did not prioritize Summer EBT draw-down had a redemption rate of 91 percent. Among all states that used the SNAP model, this state was the only one that did not require a household application to determine Summer EBT eligibility. In comparison, states that did not co-load benefits but issued a separate SNAP-like EBT card for Summer EBT had redemption rates of 93 to 96 percent. Those states also required applications for determining Summer EBT eligibility, so the higher redemption rates may be because families were more aware of the benefit than those in states that did not require an application.

Another notable result from the evaluation was that all models were just as effective in lifting children out of food insecurity and improving nutrition, regardless of whether they used the SNAP-hybrid model or issued a separate EBT card.

Gearing Up for Implementation
These findings can provide helpful context as states gear up to implement Summer EBT for the first time since permanent authorization. By January 1, 2024, states are required to submit a notice of intent to administer the program and finalize a Plan for Operations and Management (POM) by February 15. Plan requirements include details on administrative budget, benefit issuance, enrollment, data sharing, deduplication, customer service, and program violations.

Abt’s evaluations of Summer EBT provide insights into lessons learned and challenges of operating Summer EBT that states can draw on as they design their implementation plans. Ultimately, these operational decisions will depend on the most feasible and effective way to adapt the state’s existing SNAP systems to accommodate Summer EBT.

Learn more about Summer EBT:

Learn more about the evaluations:

Learn more about Abt’s ongoing work on this project:

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