Pandemic EBT program becomes available for parish
The USDA has approved a new Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) to help the Department of Education feed over 600,000 students in wake of COVID-19. During the school year, many children receive free or reduced-price meals. Since schools have been closed since March 16th, the money set aside for those meals has gone unused. With the new P-EBT program, families may get financial aid in replacement of those meals.
There were 50 school days lost when the state shut down schools through the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. According to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Louisiana Department of Education (LDE), households which include children from pre-school through 12th grade who have temporarily lost access to their free or reduced-price meals during those days will have benefits provided through P-EBT.
The meals the children were receiving cost around $5.70 per day per child. The cost multiplied by the 50 days of school missed, totals $285, which is the amount eligible families will receive to help feed their children. The amount is the same rate as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs reimbursement. The estimated cost that would be distributed to families across the state is $174.3 million.
Karen Soileau, Child Nutrition Program Director for Evangeline Parish, said, “I just think it’s phenomenal that the DCFS, the State of Louisiana and USDA have collaborated for the P-EBT program to help parents at a time when it’s really needed.”
Governor John Bel Edwards said, “This might be the only way some of our most vulnerable children can obtain a nutritious breakfast or lunch,” Edwards said. He also thanked Congress, President Donald Trump, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “for making this benefit available and speeding its implementation. We look forward to feeding Louisiana families in these trying times.”
Some schools have continued to provide meals to students by having them available for grab-and-go bagged lunches and breakfasts, regardless of the child’s enrollment, family income or size, thanks to emergency permission from the USDA. Children can still receiving these grab-and-go meals even if they apply for P-EBT.
Soileau said families receiving meals from the Meals-to-You emergency meals program may still apply for P-EBT. All public school students in Evangeline Parish qualify for free lunch through Community Eligible Provision (CEP), a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. Parents of students at private schools may still apply for P-EBT, but approval is not guaranteed.
The application is currently available on the LDE website through the P-EBT portal. The deadline for applications is June 7th. State officials are asking applicants to be patient when trying to access the P-EBT portal because there is considerable interest with thousands of other applicants trying to access the website. On May 26th, DCFS will begin mailing loaded debit cards with instructions, once the child’s information is verified. The benefits will be available for one full year and may be used to buy SNAP items anywhere SNAP is accepted.
There are more than 20 states participating in the P-EBT program, which was put in place by Congress in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020.