Program continues critical food security supports for households with K-12 children
Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that Massachusetts received federal approval to provide Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits to school-age children and their families through school year 2021-2022. The P-EBT benefits will support students who were unable to attend school due to COVID-related absences. The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) estimates this will provide $22 million in federal financial assistance for the families of more than 475,000 school-age children to buy healthy, local and culturally appropriate food as Massachusetts continues to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
“The Baker-Polito Administration has pursued all available tools and resources to support individuals and families impacted by the economic fallout from the pandemic. Thanks to close coordination at the state and local level, this P-EBT plan approval for school year 2021-2022 adds another critical tool to the Commonwealth’s effort to leverage federal funds, promote food security, and provide additional food assistance to students and their families,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.
P-EBT is a federal program, jointly administered by DTA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and in collaboration with local school districts. The program 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). The program covers the cost of school meals for students who miss school days because of COVID-19 and were unable to receive free or reduced-priced school meals.
“P-EBT has proven to be an effective tool during the COVID-19 pandemic to help families and their students directly purchase healthy, culturally appropriate food. The program also brings critical resources into our local communities, supporting food retailers and their employees,” said Department of Transitional Assistance Acting Commissioner Mary Sheehan. “We are thankful for our partnership with DESE and local school districts that enables the state to provide these critical nutrition benefits to hundreds of thousands of students and their families.”
“When students miss school, many of them also miss services such as free or reduced-price meals,” Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said. “We’re pleased to continue our collaboration with DTA to offer P-EBT benefits that help families access healthy food.”
For school year 2021-2022, P-EBT benefit amounts will be determined by the number of eligible COVID-related excused absences a student has in a month. Eligible Massachusetts’ families will receive a retroactive P-EBT payment for September 2021 through April 2022 COVID-related absences on May 25, 2022. The two remaining monthly payments for the school year (May and June) will be made on the 25th of each month.
Eligible families will receive one of three P-EBT amounts per month, per student depending on the number of COVID-19 related eligible excused school absences, as determined by school districts:
- 1-5 absences: $21 a month per student
- 6-15 absences: $71 a month per student
- 16+ absences: $128 a month per student
Families will continue to receive P-EBT on the same card they did in the past. Households who lost their P-EBT card can request a replacement card. Newly eligible students will receive their P-EBT benefits on their EBT card if receiving DTA benefits or will be mailed a P-EBT card if they do not receive DTA benefits.
Massachusetts initially launched its P-EBT program in April 2020 when schools closed due to COVID-19, was one of a limited number of 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 school year 2020-2021. In March 2021, the 2020-2021 program was extended to provide P-EBT benefits for children in child care. Information on P-EBT for children in child care for school year 2021-2022 will be shared in the future.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act established the option for states to establish program P-EBT and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allows states to continue providing P-EBT for families into school year 2021-2022.
P-EBT benefits can be used anywhere Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are accepted, including online from select retailers. More information on P-EBT can be found at Mass.gov/P-EBT and MAp-EBT.org.