Hundreds of thousands of students depend on school meals. When COVID-19 sent us indoors and effectively ended the school year, this critical connection was in jeopardy. Educators and administrators scrambled to find a solution.

Thanks to a modernized IT infrastructure and student data interoperability—made possible by Ed-Fi technology—the Arizona Department of Education was ready to act fast. Here’s how:

On March 18, the “Family First Coronavirus Response Act” was signed into law. This was the first of the federal government’s efforts to fight the economic impact of the pandemic. Included in this enormous bill was a provision—the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT)—which allows states to give families who rely on free or reduced school lunch to get the equivalent money directly.

This kind of program can be complex. States must figure out who needs the money, how much, and how to best distribute it. Fortunately, the Arizona Department of Education was able to quickly and securely identify three key pieces of data from multiple systems: eligibility for benefits, address, and parent information. They shared this information with the Department of Economic Security—which administers the benefit and was able to distribute the P-EBT cards efficiently and promptly.

“With those three data points we were able to securely compile a list of students, their parents and addresses. We shared that information with the Department of Economic Security so they could send the P-EBT cards to the families without having them go through a manual sign-up and verification process” says Britto Augustine, Chief Technology Officer at Arizona Department of Education.

Because AzEDS had already invested in a modern, secure and real-time IT infrastructure, they were prepared and able to act quickly. The Ed-Fi Data Standard offered near real-time data to flow—via the Ed-Fi API—into AzEDS. This, in turn, allowed ADE to quickly update their partners at the Department of Economic Security to ensure benefits are accessed by as many eligible families as possible.

So far, the process is working. By the beginning of May, funds had been distributed to about 550,000 students across the state.

Arizona is not alone. Join us on Wednesday, June 17th for an interactive webinar highlighting how the Ed-Fi Community has come to the aide of agencies as they pivot and respond to disaster and why having the Ed-Fi data architecture at the core of these systems proved to be a valuable investment. You’ll learn how your school district or state agency can implement the entire Ed-Fi architecture to react quickly to unforeseen changes.

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