To address the fallout from the pandemic and economic downturn that increased unemployment and food insecurity locally the feds and the state extended the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program that was launched at the height of the pandemic.
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 East Boston 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.
All Eastie students who received P-EBT during the height of the pandemic received a total of $375 in P-EBT benefits in two equal payments of $187.50 over the summer.
However, Eastie families may have noticed that no additional funds were added to their P-EBT cards last month.
DTA is now reminding parents and students that the program has expired.
“Universal free school meals are available for all students this year,” said DTA in a statement. “P-EBT was created to replace meals during COVID while schools were closed to in-person learning. Based on federal rules, students attending school in-person are not eligible for P-EBT.EBT/SNAP benefits.”
The last payments to students was made on August 25 and once school began the program was ended.
The widely successful P-EBT brought 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.