Jun 02, 2020

Program Benefits Families of Children Who Normally Receive Free or Reduced-Price Meals at School

BATON ROUGE, La. -- With six days until the deadline, applications for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program have been submitted on behalf of 403,731 children, or about 66 percent of all eligible children in Louisiana. The application portal opened May 18, and the deadline to apply is June 8.
Eligible families who have not yet submitted an application are urged to do so by the deadline. The short, electronic application is now available on the Louisiana Department of Education's website, and the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has extended the hours of its LAHelpU Customer Service Center to include Saturday to assist additional families.
All Louisiana public schools and many non-public school facilities have been closed since March 16 as a result of the ongoing public health crisis. Under the federal P-EBT program, families of children in prekindergarten through 12th grade who normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school may get financial assistance to replace those meals. This includes children who attend a Community Eligibility Provision school, at which all children receive free and reduced-price meals regardless of income. These benefits, which total $285 per child, intend to cover 50 school days, from the onset of statewide school facility closures through the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.
P-EBT is separate from the more familiar Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit, which is issued on a Louisiana Purchase EBT card to approved low-income households. The P-EBT card can be used to purchase the same eligible food for the household as can be purchased with a SNAP card. All SNAP families with qualifying students are also eligible to receive P-EBT benefits if they apply, and P-EBT also is available to non-SNAP families if they meet the P-EBT guidelines.
The P-EBT benefits do not compete with other school meals programs. Many public school systems, for example, continue to offer emergency school meals to children regardless of the child's enrollment or income. Children can continue to access these meals, in addition to the P-EBT benefits.
The online application is simple, requiring only a name, address, school district and school. Social security numbers, while helpful, are not required. The information submitted by the family, however, must exactly match the information on file with the school system in order for the application to successfully submit.
Once families complete an application in the portal, the computer system will notify them of their successful submission. Upon verification, DCFS will then mail the household a P-EBT debit card loaded with $285 per child.
Families who completed the application by May 25 will be the first to receive the cards. They are expected to arrive by June 8. Families who completed the application by June 1 will receive benefits by June 13. And families who complete the application by June 8 will receive benefits by June 19.
Benefits are available for 365 days. The cards may be used at any store that accepts SNAP to buy SNAP-eligible food items.
"Louisiana is proud of the progress it has made, but we have more to do to ensure every family with an eligible child is able to access these critical benefits," said Acting State Superintendent of Education Beth Scioneaux. "Our school systems were required to alert every eligible family, and they continue to assist families with their applications. We appreciate their partnership, as well as the partnership of the Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies."
"Families should not feel alone in this process; we are here to help," said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. "In addition to continually updating a list of Frequently Asked Questions, we have worked to ensure information about the program and application is accessible to all families, and we have extended the hours of our LAHelpU Customer Service Center to provide assistance to the applicants who are unable to connect with us during the week. We want to serve as many of the eligible children as we possibly can."
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