USDA Pandemic EBT Program
USDA Pandemic EBT ProgramOn May 5, 2020 the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia and Vermont were approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the closure of classroom-based instruction.
Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Vermont will be able to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants, and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households, to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. For the 2019-2020 school year, Maine had approximately 77,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or approximately 42% of children in participating schools.
Maine Fact Sheet
What is P-EBT?:
The USDA Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program is being managed by Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Maine Department of Education (DOE) is supporting by securely sharing data and promoting the program to districts. The program allows states to provide benefits (like SNAP or “food stamps”) to children who normally receive free or reduced-price meal benefits.
How do families receive this benefit?
If a family has an existing Pine Tree card and is considered open on SNAP or TANF with a child in the household who was age 5 (as of 10/15/2019) through age 18, benefits will automatically be provided to their existing accounts in May. Families should verify the benefits have been added to their cards.
If the family does not have SNAP or TANF benefits but is qualified to receive free or reduced-price meals, they also qualify for the benefit. If the district has submitted their enrollment and economic status updates to the DOE regularly, these families should already be on the list DHHS is using for benefits. Families will get a new card and will need to call the phone number on the back to activate. Additional information, such as date of birth, will need to be provided to DHHS by the families as part of the activation process. If the child was not age 5 as of 10/15/19 and received free or reduced lunch in Pre-K the family must request P-EBT through DHHS.
If children did not receive free or reduced-price meals and a household is interested in the program, the family needs to apply for free and reduced-price meal benefits. The family can apply through their local school district. Paper applications must be available during the school year, but online applications can be used. If the family is found eligible, they can call 1-855-797-4357 and provide required information to an eligibility specialist. The district must do an enrollment update to DOE for the student’s name to be entered into the database shared with DHHS. The information provided by the guardian will be verified with DOE data, so it is important that enrollment data provided to DOE from districts reflects the change. If families are newly eligible for free or reduced-price meals, they will only receive one benefit amount.
What is the benefit value of P-EBT?
The P-EBT benefit is meant to replace the value of school breakfast and lunch while schools are closed. Benefits are issued on a card for families to use. There are 2 benefit amounts planned: 1) Combined March and April benefit is $189 per child and will be available in May. 2) Combined May and June is $194 per child and will be available in June.
What if families do not want the benefits?
Families that already have a Pine Tree Card that receive benefits will need to call DHHS and ask to have P-EBT removed. Families receiving a new card for P-EBT (it will be a white card) should destroy and dispose of the card.
Can students still get meals through our district during the Unanticipated Closure if they receive P-EBT?
Yes, this program is above and beyond the current COVID-19 Child Nutrition Programs being operated.
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