While the COVID-19 virus may be slowing down the fallout from the yearlong pandemic and economic downturn that increased unemployment and food insecurity locally is still very much a reality.
While food banks, food distribution sites and other efforts to address hunger in the community are ongoing many were anxiously awaiting to see if the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program, launched at the height of the pandemic would be extended.
P-EBT is a federal program that is jointly administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). P-EBT promotes increased food security for families whose children receive free or reduced-price school meals through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP). During the COVID-19 pandemic the program covered the cost of school meals for students in remote or hybrid learning environments .
The recent American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allowed states to continue providing P-EBT for families through summer 2021.
This week Massachusetts received federal approval to continue providing EBT benefits to families through summer 2021. The DTA estimates this will provide continued financial assistance for the families of more than 600,000 school-age children and 88,000 children under six in households that get SNAP benefits to buy food as Massachusetts families recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.
In Mission Hill/Roxbury and throughout Massachusetts, all students who have received P-EBT will receive a total of $375 in P-EBT benefits in two equal payments of $187.50 this summer. The first payment will be issued on July 1 and the second payment will be issued on August 1. Students who graduated in 2020 or have moved out of Massachusetts will not receive P-EBT benefits in the summer.
Families who receive SNAP and have received P-EBT for their children under six years old will also receive two summer P-EBT payments of $187.50, totaling $375 for the summer. Payments for these children will be made on July 25 and August 25.
DTA estimates that P-EBT is expected to bring more than $280 million into the Commonwealth’s economy this summer, providing nearly $250 million for more than 600,000 school-aged children and $33 million for approximately 88,000 SNAP-enrolled children under the age of six.
Massachusetts initially launched its P-EBT program in April 2020 when schools closed due to COVID-19, was one of a few states to receive federal approval for September P-EBT benefits and was the first state in the nation to receive approval to continue P-EBT through the 2020-2021 school year.
In March 2021, the program was extended to provide P-EBT benefits for children in child care.
A family already receiving P-EBT benefits will have the extended benefits added to existing EBT cards. If not actively receiving these benefits, family’s will receive a P-EBT card in the mail for each eligible student in a household.
From the onset of the Covid-19 crisis many agencies like Project Bread advocated at the state and federal level for Massachusetts to receive a waiver to operate a P-EBT program.
COVID-19 has increased food insecurity in Massachusetts by a whopping 300 percent and school closures through March have significantly affected households that rely on free or reduced price meals to help feed children and make ends meet.
Providing two nutritious meals every weekday not only helps kids thrive it also allows money that would have been spent on food to go toward other necessities like rent or utilities.
Some other good news about P-EBT is that it is available to households regardless of immigration status so undocumented residents are able to receive the funds as long as they meet the general conditions for eligibility.