Massachusetts is the first state to receive federal approval to send out Pandemic EBT benefits through the end of the school year, helping families facing food insecurity, officials said Wednesday.
“COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity, especially for children who receive nutrition support in school settings,” state Secretary of Health and Human Services and COVID-19 Command Center Director Marylou Sudders said in a statement. “This remains a significant challenge for many families throughout the Commonwealth.”
P-EBT covers the cost of missed school meals for more than 500,000 students who are in a remote or hybrid learning environment, the state Department of Transitional Assistance said in a statement Wednesday.
Those who are eligible will get the next round of P-EBT benefits by the end of this month, covering the meals missed during October and November. The benefits will continue monthly until the end of the school year, the statement read.
Different families will receive different amounts, with families with children in fully remote learning environments will receive $117 a month per child, as compared to families with children in a hybrid learning environment, who will receive $58 a month per child, the DTA said.
This could bring an estimated $40 to $60 million per month in federal dollars into the state’s economy, the DTA said. The program has already brought in more than $253 million into the state.
“Massachusetts continues to maximize every opportunity to tackle food insecurity across the state,” Sudders said. “The rapid approval of our plan to issue P-EBT through the end of the school year provide[s] relief to hundreds of thousands of families across the state for many months as we continue to navigate this public health crisis.”
The P-EBT benefits program is administered by the DTA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, with the help of local school districts.
Massachusetts started its P-EBT program back in April to help students and families when schools were closed, the DTA said. It was also one of the few states to get federal approval for it to run in September.
“P-EBT has proven to be an effective tool during the COVID-19 pandemic to help families with students learning at home directly purchase healthy, culturally appropriate food,” DTA Commissioner Amy Kershaw said in a statement. “P-EBT also brings critical resources into our local communities, supporting food retailers and their employees.”
P-EBT benefits can be used in the same places as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, including online from Walmart and Amazon, the DTA said.
Those families who already get DTA benefits will get their P-EBT benefits on their same EBT card. If you don’t get DTA benefits but were mailed a P-EBT card in the past, the benefits will go there, according to the statement.
People new to the P-EBT program can get their benefits on a pre-existing EBT card if they receive DTA benefits. Those who do not will be mailed a card, and families who lost their P-EBT card can request a new one, the DTA said.
A number of families who are eligible for P-EBT could also qualify for SNAP benefits, the DTA said.
Students can also get free meals at hundreds of school meal locations across the state if they qualify for free and reduced lunches, with no registration or ID required, according to the statement.