MAY 6, 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic Hit Fresh EBT Users of Color Harder

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis has hit Americans hard. It has also laid bare the ways systemic racism means that Black Americans face greater challenges during times of crisis. Since March 2020 we’ve surveyed some of Fresh EBT’s over 4 million users on a monthly basis. We’ve uncovered great hardship, which in a number of ways is particularly pronounced for people of color. Here’s what we’ve learned.



With schools and places of work closed, low-income households, overrepresented in positions that could not easily transition to telework, suffered job losses, furloughs, and cut hours. While 22% of white Fresh EBT users said that since March 2020 they had lost or quit a job, 32% of Black and 28% of Latinx Fresh EBT users said the same. Asian and Black Fresh EBT users also said they had work hours reduced at a current or previous job due to the pandemic at a much higher rate--30% for Asian users and 27% for Black users--while 21% of white Fresh EBT users said the same.

Each month we also asked users to describe their current employment status. Month after month, Black and Latinx users consistently said they were not working and looking for work at higher rates than white households.

[They’re] laying people off left and right[.] I've already had three jobs in the past I believe for 5 months.

On average, 36% of Black and 32% of Latinx Fresh EBT users said they were currently not working but looking for work, while 24% of white users said the same.

Access to Benefits

The federal government responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic with a combination of new relief programs and expansions of existing social safety net programs. However, racial disparities also emerged in how these new and expanded benefits reached households. Perhaps the boldest solution offered--the three Economic Impact Payments, or stimulus payments--had an incredible positive impact on Fresh EBT users. Fresh EBT users told us how they were able to stock up on food, pay off debts, and help family and friends in need. But Black and Latinx Fresh EBT users reported receiving each stimulus payment at lower rates than white Fresh EBT users: